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HP remakes corporate philanthropy by donating its expertise to nonprofits

Hewlett-Packard is reshaping its policies on giving away money to nonprofit causes. Now the company will not just give away money. It will also donate the expertise of its employees to build solutions for nonprofits.

The change in policy makes sense, as the value of HP’s technology expertise could be far more useful, in conjunction with a donation, than just writing checks to charities, said Paul Ellingstad, a director in the office of global social innovation at HP, in an interview. Throwing brain power at a problem could do more good than just throwing money at it.

Announced at the Digital Life Design conference today in Munich, the HP program will help nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as mothers2mothers, a South African group that helps prevent the transmission of the AIDS virus from HIV-positive pregnant mothers to their children.

“We shifted our thinking about 14 months ago,” said Ellingstad. “We have focused on education and health and want to make sure our philanthropic efforts are more effective.”

HP will consider giving cash, materials, expertise, and employee time.

HP will use new database, cloud and mobile services technology to convert mothers2mothers’ paper-based patient records into digital form so that information can be shared across more than 700 sites in sub-Saharan Africa. That will enable counselors provide more effective education and support services to pregnant mothers. The system will provide updated information on patient treatment plans and advanced reporting tools.

The m2m employees will be able to collect and share data via basic mobile phones. Over time, that will help the organization serve more patients. The m2m group counsels more than 1.5 million women in nine countries. Mother-to-child HIV transmission rates are high due to the challenge of getting mothers to stick to their medical treatments. Roughly 40 percent of HIV-infected women give birth to HIV-positive babies. A single dose of medication to a mother before birth and again right afterward can stop transmission in 50 percent of the cases.

HP also recently announced a similar expertise-based initiative with mPedigree (whose CEO Bright Simons is pictured at top), which is fighting the use of counterfeit anti-malaria drugs through a combination of mobile phone and cloud services. And HP works with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to improve the speed of HIV diagnosis for infants in Kenya.

Disclosure: The Digital Life Design conference paid my way to Munich so I could moderate a panel. VentureBeat’s coverage of the conference remains objective and independent.

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