A few months ago, I had the honor of representing the United States as part of the first ever U.S. – Russia Innovation Dialogue. This delegation was a part of the broader initiative launched by the Bilateral Presidential Commission created by Presidents Obama and Medvedev in July 2009. The delegation consisted of senior executives from eBay, EDventure, Mozilla, Howcast, Twitter, Social Gaming Network, Katalyst, the NY Academy of Sciences and included White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra. The team was led by Jared Cohen from the U.S. Secretary of State Policy Planning staff and Howard Solomon of the National Security Council.
Admittedly when I was first approached by the State Department to be a member of this delegation, I was a bit skeptical. I had been to Russia on business before and was not sure why I was being asked to be part of what appeared to be a political diplomacy effort. I thought that perhaps someone from Cisco Government Relations organization or the Cisco Russia team would be better suited to be part of the team. However as I learned more about the intent of the delegation, I realized that the dialogue is to focus on the role of innovation and technology to enrich the relationship between the two countries.
During the weeklong trip through Moscow and Novosibirsk, Siberia, my fellow delegates and I engaged in conversations with a wide variety of groups across Russia. Our itinerary spanned sessions with government officials, non-governmental organizations, business leaders from the private sector, entrepreneurs, start-ups, academics, university students, and high school students. The days were packed with activity and the intellectual rapport was exciting. The most memorable part of the trip for me was my conversations with high school students. It was very rewarding to see these bright young students ask us questions and share their dreams. When we asked them for their impressions of Americans, they answered frankly that they thought Americans were “adventurous and bold but complain a lot.”:)
The U.S. – Russian Dialogue has committed to twenty deliverables within the areas of: education, entrepreneurship training, and mentorship, anti-trafficking and child protection, combating cyber-crime, health, e-governance and promoting cultural collaboration. You can read more on “Resetting U.S. – Russia Relations with a Mix of Tech and Diplomacy” by Jared Cohen here http://tinyurl.com/yctylya
So why is all this relevant to Cisco?
As our CEO John Chambers often says, at Cisco our aspiration is to be “The best company in the world and the best company for the world”. To this end, we foster and drive strong partnership between public and private sectors around the world. As a company we strongly believe that technology and innovation drive country transformation. There are many examples of this, the broadest of which is our market adjacency for “Smart+Connected Communities”. In addition we invest in skill enhancements for the local workforce through Cisco Networking Academies and Cisco-sponsored Entrepreneurship Institutes. On a global basis we encourage innovators to bring their ideas to market through the Cisco i-Prize.
Cisco also pursues opportunities in emerging markets. The mission of the “Cisco Emerging Countries Council” is to drive the transformation and acceleration of opportunities in the these markets by cross-functional, in-theatre and in-country collaboration. The Emerging Countries Council is focused on developing replicable business models and focuses on countries such as Russia, Brazil and Mexico that have a fast growth rate.
I want to end by pointing out that a session to follow on the U.S. – Russia innovation delegation trip occurred via Cisco Telepresence. I hosted this session that connected members of the US State Department and several senior executives from a number of the US companies who participated in the original delegation who joined the Cisco TelePresence session from San Jose, Los Angeles and New York.
The Russian audience included Igor Schegolev, minister of telecommunications; Ilya Massukh, aide to minister Schegolev, Artem Ermolayev, director of the government policy department for informatics and information technology at the Ministry of Telecommunications; Stanislav Voskresensky, deputy minister of economic development; and representatives of some of Russia’s leading IT companies, including ABBYY, Kaspersky Lab, Rostelecom and Yandex.
I would love to hear your ideas on what Cisco needs to do better to accelerate (a) our emerging countries strategies (b) further enhance our efforts in public-private partnerships. Looking forward to your comments and feedback!