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Innovation for Country Transformation

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!

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12 Comments.


  1. I think the best way to accelerate your partnerships is through innovations of mobile technologies within Cisco. In the emerging markets the easiest way to get to the consumer is through their mobile device. A great example of that is India where everyone has a cellphone:).

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  2. First of all kudos to the efforts that cisco has been doing to assist the growth story of emerging countries. To further these efforts I believe Cisco should help in creating more awareness on technology as a solution and driver of efficiency in emerging countries. This awareness should reach all the educated masses such that the benefits of technology reaches all. The explosive growth in usage of mobile devices was one such revolution where everyone accepted that technology need not be costly and can in-fact improve the way we communicate. If awareness in other technological innovations can be made in emerging countries the same way as cell phones was made popular and useful that would be great.

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  3. I can speak for India but this idea would work in all large countries with big cities.The biggest value technology – high speed networks can offer is to migrate professionals from big cities to villages or townships which are 1000 feet above sea level. Here in India these hill stations do not require air conditioning, are pleasant to live in all the year around and not densely populated yet.Cisco needs to deliver business class networks, online schools for children of the relocated professionals and provide logistics information support for daily commodities. India would save billions on infrastructure projects like Metro if most professional (high spenders) could be relocated.I also foresee a residential real estate crash in big cities, between 5 to 10 years of rural high speed networks.

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  4. Growth potential in Russia is tremendous. I think in general efforts like these are mostly targeted to the densely populated areas of the country, and that is understandable. Russia, however, is one of the most unique countries. It’s massive, spread out and very diverse. Population is mostly concentrated in the east, but there is untapped, underutilized market potential in the center of the country (east of Ural Mountains), where infrastructure is lacking but rich with natural resources. That’s where technology can really make a difference for the every day folks, as well investors.

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  5. Help governments in leveraging innovation. Key is equipping local players with development tools that will help them innovate independently, and leadership programs to develop a mindset of self-support and sustainable growth.

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  6. Inclusive Growth has been the mantra of the current Indian Government and this calls for significant knowledge dissemination in Rural India so that better agriculture practices can be deployed. This in turn improves the farm productivity, thereby enhances the income for the farmers. Corporates like ITC Limited has implemented a path breaking initiative e-choupal to provide such information dissemination as well as disintermediated the agri supply chain processes. To broadbase such initiatives, Internet connectivity need to be reach nooks and corners of India. Companies like Cisco need to examine this aspect and help in maximising the internet reach in India for corporates to strategise what need to be done to foster inclusive growth

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  7. Wonderful Initiative .. And there should be such 20 point programs between most developed and under developed nations as well.Firmly believe that development of telecom and data networks, have the maximum impact on development. If data networks become omnipresent, then significant fuel lost in transportation, could be diverted to powering networks which can deliver value and provide comfort of living too. People will be able to stay at far away places and yet be connected to anyone anywhere in the world collaborating on various projects and initiatives.I see that world shaping but constrained by governmental monopolies and restrictive trade practices by the developed nations. For if that happens, it will be a race to developing and harnessing talents. And that could upset the economics of many a developed nation which are already having sluggish growth and lack of educated usable skilled resources.Personally, I am bullish on telepresence but it remains to be seen how it can effectively deal with real-life problems in countries like India and many in Africa.Cheers!krisiyer@twitter

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  8. The market growth is major in Indian subcontinent. The Cisco is also has a rapid growth in India because good talent. If Cisco starts some educational program here then it would be helpfull.

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  9. I believe in the ipping point”” theory of change so my focus would be more on the individual and less on technology. The biggest differentiator for Cisco is its people and leadership. Emerging entrepreneurs are hungry for role models. I would provide access whether in real-time or on-demand videos or other media that highlights Cisco’s management and leaders and is accessible to the masses (not just the ones that speak English and act like we do). People-to-people connections. There are a far greater number of people, with much upside potential who don’t act and talk like us in the West.I would get down into the educational system where students are focused on learning and willing to look at new ideas. Since schools are probably under-resourced, Cisco could be helpful in this space. Especially, as mentioned in other comments, on the cell phone. Games or other apps that encourage engagement, learning and motivation may be very helpful. Online learning. Maybe recycling older cell-phones to deploy learning might work.First you have to encourage and develop the basic skills. Then when you provide access and information, the entrepreneurship interest could emerge leading to accelerating change.Wayne Tarkenwayne@waynetarken.com

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  10. Dear Padmasree, Cisco with its reach can do a whole lot in the emerging countries, namely .. 1. Offer Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) and other NGOs access to purchase Cisco products at a heavily discounted price;2. Partner with NGOs like Nuru International in Kenya or NGOs in NIS countries to offer local communities access to technology and Internet so that they can gain access to health, agriculture and education related information. 3. Partner with NGOs like Friendship Bridge in Guatemala to provide them with PDAs or mobile phones so that they can extend their reach to touch more customers in the remote parts of the country.4. Help non-profit technology service providers like ourselves to access Cisco’s or your partners data centers around the globe at an affordable price, access to telecomm and wireless partners to get discounted pricing , discounted pricing for Cisco products, etc such that we can offer SaaS services to MFIs at a reasonable cost.

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  11. IT IS PAY BACK TIME PADMASREE.My thinking is very narrow and India specific(my apologies).Infosys mentor Mr.Narayan Murthy is doing his bit in spreading awareness about taking IT to rural India.Nandan Nilekani(former chairman Infosys) has involved himself in the project related to designing biometric ID’s for Indians.Sachin Pilot the minister for Telecommunication and a Wharton alumni (aged 32 yrs.) is working hard to create rural networking infra structure in India for advanced Telecom.You are no less endowed than the above people.with or without CISCO, full time or part time, as per your convenience, you should take up some responsibility for creating a virtual infra structure in rural India. with government or private patronage.Best wishes,Shyam

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  12. I have to agree that it looked like a political diplomacy effort, but I would most probably act the same as you.

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