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Technology that Helps Humanity

May 19, 2014
at 12:06 pm PST

This article was originally published on Cisco’s internal employee news site, Cisco Employee Connection. 

The Internet of Everything is beginning to transform every aspect of our lives. Can we still change this world for the better by connecting people, data, process and things?

Corporate Affairs SVP Tae Yoo says, “More than ever.”

“As the Internet of Everything takes hold, our networked technology is effecting more dramatic and longer-lasting change in people’s lives,” Tae says. “We find the world’s best social innovators. And then we give them the tools and resources to expand and accelerate their fine work.”

Take two of our corporate social responsibility (CSR) community partners that are making significant progress against math illiteracy and global poverty. One, MIND Research Institute, is helping U.S. schoolchildren improve their math skills for future job success. The other, Digital Divide Data, is helping underserved youth in Kenya, Cambodia, and Laos develop technology skills for a lifetime of employment.

MIND Research Institute

Research shows that a solid foundation in math at an early age is a strong predictor of later success in the workplace. Yet, 75 percent of students in the United States are failing math by the time they reach middle school.

Now, thousands of U.S. students in grades 1-5 are showing double-digit, even triple digit, increases in math ability.

A penguin named Jiji can claim much of the responsibility for these amazing results. Jiji, an animated character, is the brainchild of Matthew Peterson, cofounder of the MIND Research Institute. MIND is a nonprofit organization founded by neuroscientists and cognitive learning researchers who study the way children learn math. Matthew’s team develops animated, online math instruction called Spatial Temporal Math that communicates visually rather than verbally.

Students solve each math problem by helping Jiji successfully overcome different obstacles. Each visual problem helps students understand sophisticated concepts in math, regardless of language proficiency. And all it takes for a child to improve is two 45-minute sessions a week.

After much testing, the institute knew its software was a winner. It just needed help getting more students in more schools access to the software.

Enter Cisco.

Our cash and product grants helped transition the software to a web-based platform. We helped MIND pilot the software in several school districts. And we connected MIND with City Year, one of our community partners that tutors and mentors high-risk students to reduce their likelihood of dropping out of school.

The results? Outstanding.

In Arizona, we introduced the program into 14 underperforming schools in the state. After these students completed the program, their standardized test scores showed their math abilities had outstripped the national average by one year.

Since 2004, when we first began supporting MIND Research Institute, the program has reached more than 600,000 students, in more than 2000 schools across 35 states.

These young students have discovered what they couldn’t imagine before: a lifelong love of math.

Digital Divide Data

Imagine an 18-year old Cambodian woman, financially poor but rich in intelligence and ambition. In a few years, she wins a scholarship for graduate school at a European university.

This is no fantasy. Chantheng Heng did just that. Her life changed after she found work and training at Digital Divide Data. The organization sells data processing, advanced analysis, and content services to clients such as Harvard, Stanford, and Ancestry.com. It is a pioneer in Impact Sourcing, a type of Business Process Outsourcing focused on boosting economic development for low-income populations.

Business Process Outsourcing matches work needed by companies with outsourcing providers worldwide. Traditionally, outsourcing providers do not provide training that prepares their employees for a lifetime career. Turnover rates are sky high.

Whereas Digital Divide Data recruits low-income youth who are high school graduates and trains them in office, technical and social skills. They also offer university scholarships. The organization has 1000 workers, half of whom are women and 10 percent are people with disabilities. Its employees earn three to four-times the average local salary and have a pathway for a long-term professional career and financial independence.

The organization operates in Cambodia, Laos, and Kenya, and is expanding into Peru. It aims to become financially sustainable between three and five years after entering a country.

We help Digital Divide Data improve its technology infrastructure and programs in all its locations. Our products helped them reduce downtime, offer support 24 x 7, consolidate more than 30 terabytes of data into a centralized location and improve data security. Cisco grants have helped the organization to recruit, train, and employ more youth, increase its revenue, and better serve its global client base.

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