In my last blog, “Africa – Connected Continent – At last”, I described how the arrival of affordable internet bandwidth in Africa is enabling companies to use technology to transform how they do business. Today at Cisco we have realised huge efficiencies in how we conduct our business internally and we have fundamentally changed how we communicate and collaborate with customers and partners, thanks to TelePresence.
TelePresence allow people to meet face to face over the network without the need to travel. Participants enjoy a high definition, high quality, life-size video experience and can share rich media content. We can now bring in subject matter experts from over one thousand Cisco TelePresence rooms across the globe and put them together with the vast majority of our workforce in Africa as if they were sat just across the table from each another; all at the touch of a button. In fact we can connect Cisco’s TelePresence rooms with any customer or partner TelePresence room, provided they have a B2B exchange with Cisco, so the possibilities are huge.
A little over twelve months ago, just 35% of our workforce in Africa had access to TelePresence in their local Cisco office location. Today that number has doubled. Cisco now runs this technology in 7 countries across the continent – Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia with every location benefitting from a 6 seater, TelePresence board room style environment. The door is now open from Africa across the globe, to a new way of interacting, communicating and conducting business. To give you an idea of the savings that we have realised internally since we began the global deployment. 909,000 TelePresence meetings have been conducted resulting in 817M$ travel savings (direct costs for travel and lodging). This means we have saved 440,000 metric tonnes of emissions and 306$m of productivity savings through travel avoidance. Just think for a moment how you could apply these savings to your business.
In today’s fast paced world, TelePresence is a critical tool in allowing businesses to be competitive , wherever they are located in the world. Yet today the technology is all the more important to Africa where ongoing social unrest has severely restricted travel in and out of several countries as people campaign and demonstrate for change. Before the almost unprecedented unrest of 2011 in fact, a number of African countries have historically been susceptible to unrest, violence and even terrorist activity which limited business travel and opportunity. This meant that business leaders tended only to travel to such countries when the trip was of vital importance. TelePresence allows us to remove these obstacles, hence business in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria has suffered less of an impact lately as we have been able to continue operations and engagements through TelePresence.
In my capacity as manager for IT services in Africa, being based in our London Bedfont Lakes office, TelePresence certainly makes my life a whole lot easier in supporting our African business. With 70% of Cisco headcount in Africa having access to TelePresence at their home office location, whilst coverage is extensive, the reach of High Definition (HD) Video does not stop there. Come the end of fiscal year 2011, we are committed to enabling high definition video across all of Cisco’s offices in Africa and indeed across the whole of what we term the “Emerging Markets” geography. Even the smallest of remote offices will be enabled with HD video capability thanks to our Tandberg product offering which is geared for such environments. Look out for my next article, “High Definition Video for the Masses” to get an insight into this opportunity.