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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

So why is all this relevant to Cisco?

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Africa: The broadband opportunity

We at Cisco had the opportunity to participate in the World Economic Forum in Africa last week (May 5-7/2010) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and not only discuss Africa’s problems and challenges but to experience them firsthand: the traffic, the lack of infrastructure and the poverty.

But despite the huge problems and challenges the continent is facing, the overall mood of the participants was very positive, focused more on how to solve the problems and less on discussing them.

One of the more frequently discussed ideas during the sessions was Africa’s lack of integration  with the overall global economy and the continent’s marginalization. For example, only 3.5 % of global exports come from Africa and Africa receives less than 1% of global foreign direct investments. And if we consider Africa has a 1 billion population of which 60 percent are young people, something needs to be done and be done now.

Rethinking Africa’s competitiveness: Yvon Le Roux, Cisco vice-president for Africa and Levant



ICT could play an important role inending the continent’s marginalization and further insert Africa into the global economy. This was our contribution to the dialogue in Tanzania both at public and private sessions and at the private meetings we had with governments and businesses from the region. We made the point clear: Africa has emerged from the global crisis in strong shape and economic growth is set to continue, but current rates of growth will not be enough to decisively reduce the gap with the rest of the world. Broadband’s potential for productivity improvements can boost economic growth and help narrow this gap. The dramatic increase in international bandwidth that the new submarine cables offer is very timely and the opportunity it represents should be integrated into national development strategies.

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Cisco and Apollo Hospitals to Further Extend Healthcare Reach to Rural Parts of India

Health care providers face many challenges in the delivery of health care services In India, particularly to suburban and rural areas. Over the last decade, Apollo Hospitals, Asia’s largest health care provider, and via the Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation, the largest and oldest multi-specialty telemedicine network has met some of these issues in an organized and cost efficient manner.

Last week, another milestone was set, this time with Cisco in the picture. 

Apollo Hospitals and Cisco announced an alliance to help transform health care through information and communications technology (ICT). The joint initiative is aimed to help drive inclusive growth and well-being by accelerating access to affordable and high-quality health care via the Cisco HealthPresenceTM Extended Reach technology.

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Enabling Kenyan and US Connections Across the Human Network with TelePresence

The Deaf Aid Academy in Kenya helps demonstrate how public-private partnerships can empower the underserved.

I wrote a blog post in January on Increasing Investment in ICT Capacity Building to Empower Persons with Hearing Impairment.  And now, I want to share with you what happened since then and the power of the Internet to connect people and drive change in the world.

The Power of Blogging

A few months later, I received an email from Len Mudrock, a Cisco software engineer in North Carolina who expressed an interest to connect with the students in Kenya and share with them his experience:

I read this article. It’s very interesting.  I am deaf at Cisco in Research Triangle Park, NC as a software engineer.  I would love to learn about this.   I went to the deaf conference in Germany and met a few Eastern European deaf people. They couldn’t believe that I am an engineer. I am thinking about being involving this if I could help deaf people in other countries in the future like a volunteer hours or a week.

In the meantime, I have been working with the Cisco Kenya team and had one of the first TelePresence meetings using our new TP in Nairobi, which was launched recently.  What ensued is what I like to call, “connecting the dots.”  I was able to connect Hital Muraj, our Cisco Networking Academy leader in East Africa, Len Mudrock and Marilyn Carter, who leads the Cisco Disability Awareness Network’s (CDAN).  We decided to invite 15 hearing impaired students and instructires to the session, with Len in RTP, and have the session videotaped.  The goal was to share how technology has changed his work experience as a hearing-impaired software engineer.

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Cisco Egypt: The Team Driving Innovation

Olaf Krahmer, President and General Manager of Cisco Egypt, and Elisabeth De Dobbeleer, Director, Operations, recently invited me to Egypt.  I arrived at the Cairo office on Sunday and joined a vibrant team discussion led by Olaf on our fiscal year planning. I felt very welcomed by the team and it was a great opportunity to learn about Egypt and see our people in action.

What’s on People’s Minds?

I decided to capture some of the conversations I had using my new Flip video.  As you will see, I am still a novice and I will hopefully improve with practice.  While I met many exceptional employees, I captured three and want to share with you their perspectives on this video:

  • Ramy Abdallah joined Cisco three months ago as a Client Executive.  He brings an incredible background to Cisco customers and partners.  He taught me that as part of the Egyptian culture, you tend to address issues directly.
  • Ayman Elgohary has been with Cisco for 8 years and has been the Regional Commercial Sales Manager for the past six years.  We shared a passion for Canada and I learned that he wrote a number of papers about Cisco as a student.  It was interesting to talk to him about the differences and similarities from what he expected and what he has experienced.
  • Dina Hassan inspired me.  She is our Finance Manager and had the opportunity to be in a rotation program in Paris.  As you will see, she is very passionate about her role at Cisco and the opportunities in Egypt


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