The ICT sector not only drives innovation, but fuels competitiveness in the global economy. Jobs in information and communication technologies (ICT) sectors, like telecommunications and the Internet, are key sources of growth and crucial for the growth of the economy.
Cisco conducted an ICT gender gap study in June 2009, which found that female students in five European countries have computer skills but many avoid technology careers. The study concludes that the single most de-motivating factor is the view that the tech sector is inherently better suited to men. Amy Christen, Global Vice President of Cisco Networking Academy, believes that industry and government should collaborate to change girls’ perceptions and galvanize more women.
So if this is taking place in Europe, what are the consequences for emerging countries? A recent Global Voices article, focusing on Information Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D), caught my attention as it discussed the opportunities for empowerment of women, and alleviation of gender disparity.
Anyone who has seen Wim Elfrink in the flesh knows he has an infectious enthusiasm for innovation. So perhaps it is not surprising that the Cisco Chief Globalisation Officer’s no-holding-back attitude has spawned a new approach to learning in rural India. Elfrink uprooted from San Jose, CA, to Bangalore in India in 2006 to head up Cisco’s Globalisation Centre East and since then has been a fierce advocate of collaboration tools such as Cisco TelePresence and Unified Communications as a means of cutting down on business travel.
Paradoxically, though, a business trip has triggered a new application for this very type of technology.
While visiting Chhindwara in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Elfrink challenged a group of young people to come up with business ideas for possible Cisco sponsorship—and the winning concept involved using Cisco WebEx collaboration tools to improve learning in the region. Documented in a video and a feature on News@Cisco, the story of how Elfrink’s encouragement and a team of Cisco mentors helped three young Indians set up the Lakshya Network in Chhindwara is one that should interest educators and entrepreneurs worldwide.
Cisco’s emerging markets operations area spans over 130 nations, representing 2.3 billion people. Some of the countries Cisco is working in include Lebanon, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, and Egypt. It’s a lot of territory to cover, that’s for sure. With this in mind, Cisco has established a clearly defined process for driving its business in emerging countries focused on building out Cisco’s coverage and establishing replicable business models that provide synergies across industry verticals and between countries.
All of these initiatives are focused on the the company’s long-term strategy of “country transformation,” which is Cisco’s concept of providing communications equipment and technology assistance to help a country reach its social and economic development goals.
Paul Mountford, Cisco’s president for the Emerging Markets theater, provided an overview of some of the key highlights across the theatre in this video from our Q1 earnings in FY10:
For an overall perspective on our first quarter FY10 earnings, you may also be interested in this Q&A with Cisco chairman and CEO, John Chambers and Cisco CFO, Frank Calderoni.
“The fundamental social problems faced in the 21st century are shared global problems that do not respect national boundaries. The solutions require the engagement of all of humanity in its full diversity.”
Successful social innovation begins at a local level where it often remains isolated; subsequently good ideas are fragmented, often trapped in small communities. Current mechanisms for diffusion beyond the community of origin are limited, and because “one size does not necessarily fit all,” the spread of new ideas is often uncertain and slow.
Despite countless attempts to capture and share knowledge, we have yet to figure out the “secret sauce” that results in an ongoing process of collaboration to solve critical challenges. And despite billions of dollars spent every year in well-meaning gifts and programs, our social problems keep getting bigger: 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty, 10 million children under the age of 5 dying annually, 1 billion people with no access to clean water, 2.5 billion people without access to basic sanitation, two-thirds of the world’s countries without universal primary education for children, only 22 % of the world’s fisheries now sustainable, and dropping every year—and the list goes on.
As a rule rather than an exception, solutions are ‘reinvented’ time and again across the globe due to our inability to fully interact. There is a growing realization that to scale and sustain any efficiency and effectiveness of social programs that the answer lies in different approaches and working smarter -- and making more effective use of shared and tacit knowledge to drive innovation.