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Public Safety Series: How the City of McAllen Transformed their Judicial Process with Video Solutions

In my last blog post in the Public Safety Series, I discussed how police forces could use video technologies to improve their training programs. In addition to training, there are numerous other ways that law enforcement agencies can utilize video solutions to both operate more efficiently as a department and improve officers’ ability to protect their community. Today, I want to share with you a real-life example of how one government agency is using video solutions to make tangible changes in how the judicial process in their city works.

The City of McAllen, located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, is increasingly turning to innovative technology solutions to improve the city’s operations. As a smaller city with limited personnel and resource, McAllen realized that technology can help them operate at a high level and continue to provide excellent service to its residents. Previously, the city had deployed Cisco Call Manager as a solution to its formerly fragmented phone system, which helped simplify and management of its phone system and save money.

Next, the city turned its sights to exploring more efficient ways to connect court activities with police departments and officers in the field. It had always been difficult to obtain warrants from off-duty judges, wasting time and adding unnecessary roadblocks in the judicial process. McAllen hoped that with video solutions, police officers could connect with the city’s judges and receive paperwork for a warrant immediately.

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From Career Connection to Collaborative Knowledge: How Cisco Created a New Digital Workplace Solution

As we’ve observed, in today’s fast-paced digital age, enterprises must continually find new ways to reskill their workforce to remain up to date with technology, develop effective leaders, and innovate new solutions on behalf of their customers. Research from Bersin by Deloitte has found that average employee tenure has decreased from five to seven years to two to three years. As a result, roughly 75 to 90 percent of an organization’s workforce needs continuous reskilling.

Several years ago, we undertook a major initiative to reskill more than 14,000 employees in our Services organization. Our goal: to shift from a “box” culture to a consultative solutions culture. To do this, we needed a different technology platform and a new way of working with our employees.

Human Resources executives worked with Cisco Services and Learning and Development teams to develop a vision for a cloud-based platform that could equip the Services workforce with the skills needed for today and tomorrow. The goal of this internal platform, called Career Connection, was to create a continuous learning workplace culture that could take the Services organization to the next level. The platform we developed enabled Services to build new consultative selling capabilities while elevating existing skills. We also worked to improve engagement and collaboration by providing employees with the much-needed ability to network with mentors and experts and to learn informally from their peers.

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#WednesdayWalkabout Series: Stay Protected While Always Connected

Cybersecurity for all

October is #CyberAware month. This year marks the 12th anniversary of this national cybersecurity awareness campaign, with it bringing a hot topic of discussion. In the digital age, increasing amounts of data are being shared in new and often unanticipated ways. This ever-growing abundance of data, devices and connections brings a set of new security threats. And increasingly, governments are feeling the heat. In fact, cyber attacks on United States government agencies increased 782 percent from 2006 to 2012 (source: GAO-13-187).

Just like private businesses, governments want to take advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies. However, the stakes do not just hold financial or competitive ramifications. Governments at each level hold large amounts of citizen information and sensitive intelligence. It has become more imperative, yet more difficult, to secure and protect critical information and infrastructure, government assets, and citizens. Recent data breaches and cyber attacks targeting companies and government services have not only fostered public fear, but have also dramatically changed the security landscape making personal digital protection as important as physical protection. Individual technology users are taking on greater responsibility for understanding potential threats, to self-educate, and take the proper steps toward protecting themselves online.

With this serious cybersecurity situation urgently requiring the attention of public sector leaders, network security intelligence—the ability to predict, identify and react to potential threats—is taking on a new importance.

Protect your community against cybercriminals

Today our citizen is a cybersecurity warrior both at work and at home. After a cup of coffee and a quick perusal of the local newspaper, it’s time for work, where our digital citizen is a government leader charged with protecting citizen data, critical infrastructure, and strategic government information.

First on the agenda is a summit meeting of local and national cybersecurity leaders. The venue’s network simply has to work. It has to be secure. And for a cost-effective implementation, it needs a set-up that can be re-used elsewhere for future gatherings. As the organizer, our digital citizen takes a page from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and their successful hosting of the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague.

Our citizen is now rushing to make a meeting with the community public service administrators. In the face of dwindling budgets, the group is set to discuss how to cost-effectively deliver secure, streamlined services to its widely dispersed population of more than two million residents. Like the government of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, our citizen recommends a robust web security solution that can also meet identity and access policy requirements. Our citizen also referenced Florida’s Pinellas County, which has seen great success in securely expanding and improving services and convenience for its residents and employees.


After a quick lunch on the go, it’s time for the digital citizen to meet with the community’s Fire Chief. The fire service has over 100 branch offices, which presents a significant security challenge at the edge. End users also rely on a wide range of mobile devices—including smartphones, tablets, and laptops—and require different access levels. The Chief requests extreme reliability that their caliber of work demands, as well as improved security, scalability, and manageability. Like the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, the community’s emergency services network has to be ready to respond to any circumstance, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Ordinary civilians, meanwhile, face new urban threats in the form of Internet fraud and identity theft. You wouldn’t leave your house unlocked, accept gifts from a stranger, or leave the keys to your car in the ignition. So why is a digital security solution less obvious?

The workday is over and our citizen is now at home. Recognizing that as the line between our digital and physical worlds become increasingly blurred, it’s more important for owning personal online presence. Our citizen has taken some preemptive steps to staying safe and secure online. Especially as a government employee, it is the citizen’s responsibility to implement best practices at home and the workplace.

First, the digital citizen takes time to understand the cyber players for consideration—both inside and out. Not only are hackers a threat to personal and professional information, but benign, insider activity can also expose vulnerabilities to malicious actors. That is why our citizen teaches their entire family about protecting themselves online. In fact, with the growing trend of youth cyber awareness and education programs, the digital citizen’s children are encouraged to learn about cybersecurity through camps, classes, and after-school programs. Finally, our citizen uses simple practices that can easily be implemented such as, changing passwords regularly, and avoiding using the same or simple passwords across personal and professional accounts. The citizen also makes a point to ensure Internet-connected devices, like laptops, phones and tablets, don’t fall victim to malware by keeping software of operating systems up-to-date. On the use of social media, our citizen recommends checking privacy settings, recognizing that hackers can take advantage of public information to draft targeted emails for phishing.

The concepts of smart cities and digital government are revolutionizing the way in which everything is managed and delivered in the public sector. At the same time, a growing dependence on digital technology to deliver everyday services brings with it new vulnerabilities. Our citizen displays an important takeaway. From the workplace to the home, everyone is responsible for cybersecurity and needs to be proactive in maintaining security standards in all aspects of our increasingly digital world.

Next Stop

Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s post from #MOTM2015. And be sure to check back each week as we explore new themes, challenges and observations.

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Additionally, you can click here and register now to get your questions answered on how to become the next digital community. Finally, we invite you to be a part of the conversation by using the hashtag #WednesdayWalkabout and by following @CiscoGovt on Twitter. For more information and additional examples, visit our Smart+Connected Communities page and our Government page on Enjoy the Wednesday walkabout!


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#WednesdayWalkabout Series: Digital Countries – Stories of Success

All aboard the digital express

Communities and countries of all sizes are in motion toward a digital future…and if not, they risk being left behind. This then begs the question, what does ‘digitize’ really mean? Certainly, there’s no instruction manual for the task. The roadmap features some identifiable landmarks—flagged by early pioneers—but there is still plenty of unchartered territory. In fact to navigate this rapidly changing landscape, we definitely have our work cut out for us, both in the developed and emerging parts of the world.

We frequently talk about all things becoming connected, but in reality, the majority of the global inhabitants are still faced with little to no Internet access, a disturbing fact when you consider the socio-economic benefits that technology affords. The digital divide is real. Despite the proliferation and rapid advancement of technology, many just are not receiving the benefits of the changes made in ICT.

However, an important tool in shedding light on the digital puzzle is the sharing of success stories and best practices. Sharing of experiences and expertise can open the discussion on how digital government can and should evolve. Using the power of the global community, the ever-increasing propagation of technology can begin to help digital countries develop faster and more efficiently through sharing and learning. And by bringing to light the stories of transformation, large and small, around the globe we hope to offer guidance and leadership to those embarked on the journey or planning a trip soon.

Where in the world is the digital citizen?

So how exactly do you separate fact from fiction and who is just presenting smoke and mirrors? Since the discussions concerning the digital shift began, there have been a number of myths and promises. With the growing numbers of examples to draw from, we are now in a much better position to assess the possible processes of digitization in a more realistic manner. And based on the experiences of the early-adopters, we can begin suggesting the steps that governments can take and/or avoid in planning their digital country strategy.

This week, our digital citizen is a jet setter. Think Carmen Sandiego circa 1990. First stop, the United Kingdom. The country is in its second phase of digitization planning, which includes efforts such as public sector development, accelerated cybersecurity innovation, and public-private initiatives like the British Innovation Gateway (BIG). Strategic investment to accelerate existing government goals for driving economic growth through high-tech innovation is helping the UK to becoming one of the top digitized countries in the world.

A quick trip over to the continent and our citizen is making the next stop in France. Drawing on a dynamic start-up culture, the reform-driven country plans to extract value from its efforts to enhance security, increase productivity, create jobs, and improve citizens’ lives through digitization. The Cisco Networking Academy program plans to open 1,500 additional academies and train upwards of 200,000 students in France, giving the French workforce the skills needed to accelerate the country’s digitization process. Not only is France expected to gain a GDP boost from 1-2 percent, this transformation will contribute to France’s overall global competitiveness by supporting job growth, education, cybersecurity, innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives.

We’re off again and on to India, where Smart City Bangalore is a prime example of a bottom-up digital country strategy, starting at the smart city level. Electronics City, in a newly developed area of Bangalore, is meant to be a model for smart cities, not just in India, but also around the world. Our citizen learns that for this, and for the 90+ other smart cities planned for India under the new government’s plan, its leaders are thinking about better ways to deliver citizen services and foster education initiatives to nurture the next-generation workforce. India is working toward a scalable blueprint on how to continue to be relevant in the rapidly evolving global environment.

Digital CIty_TW

And finally, we arrive in Singapore. While visiting, our citizen enjoys ubiquitous Internet connectivity—Singapore’s government has so far connected almost 99 percent of its residents to an ultra-high-speed network. Our citizen also can’t help but notice that Singapore is a bustling, world-class hub for modern business, enabled by the push for high technology adoption and by allowing innovation to flourish. In this year’s Global Information Technology Report, Singapore takes the top rank of the world’s most tech-savvy nations, recognizing the government’s successful promotion of innovative ICT and of providing online services to its citizens.

Well, we’re now approaching 2016, and while we might not have quite ended the traffic jam conundrum, the future of digital transformation in government is here and continues to build momentum. The answer is not a simple one, or a simple fix for technology alone. It is clear that digital transformation, at any level, will not happen overnight. However, it can be said that the future of digital success will rely on high collaboration and best practice sharing. Because amidst all the disruptive change that is due to come our way, governments must recognize they are not necessarily alone. Do’s and don’ts can and should be widely shared to point others on their digital journeys toward success.

Next Stop

Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s post to discover more information about cybersecurity and staying safe online in honor of #CyberAware month. And be sure to check back each week as we explore new themes, challenges and observations.

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Additionally, you can click here and register now to get your questions answered on how to become the next digital community.

Finally, we invite you to be a part of the conversation by using the hashtag #WednesdayWalkabout and by following @CiscoGovt on Twitter. For more information and additional examples, visit our Smart+Connected Communities page and our Government page on Enjoy the Wednesday walkabout!


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#WednesdayWalkabout Series: Learn Without Limits

Learn Without Limits

Today’s new technology trends, particularly those around digitization and the Internet of Everything, present education with an unprecedented amplifier. We now have the capacity to share knowledge to an exponentially larger number of people than ever before.

Literacy and the quest for knowledge are basic human rights that are currently unequally distributed among the world’s population. Despite global efforts, access to basic schooling and life-long learning is still far from a reality for many in today’s environment. And a lack of foundational education hinders economic prosperity, perpetuating levels of poverty in the world’s poorest societies. However, the digital age is shining new hope. Technology advancements offer significant opportunities to improve access to learning and opportunities to address the learning disparities in underserved populations, encouraging the movement toward wider education equity. Not only is technology closing the knowledge gap, but it is also providing new and innovative ways to teach and to learn. In complementing traditional methods, technology can truly be a value-add on how you provide and absorb knowledge.

All Those in Favor of Learning Say ‘Aye’

Last week, we met brave ten-year-old Thorben, who is battling cancer. The Internet of Everything is connecting Thorben to his classmates in a way that is as close as possible to being there in person. For Thorben and many UKE Hamburg patients, digital technologies are creating a quality of life and reducing the feelings of isolation from normal life prior to their diagnoses.

This week, our digital citizen, like Thorben, is a child in pursuit of connecting with teachers and platforms for learning. Education is the foundation of any modern society; and in today’s post, we’ll explore how digital learning is an evolutionary step in education.

For our citizen, like many around the world, conventional classrooms can be prohibitively expensive, both to build and to attend. However, open access to improved technology is changing that and allowing for learning to be undertaken from anywhere at anytime. India’s Amrita University experienced similar challenges in educating those in remote locations. To address this, the University staff conducted both online and onsite courses, walking attendees through the same lesson plan as if the physical and digital worlds had merged into one.

Skip forward a few years and our digital citizen is struggling with balancing a job and finishing a university education. However, like in what San Jose State University (SJSU) is calling the “next-generation classroom”, many learning institutions are removing thEDucation_hashtage need to attend a course in person, eliminating travel time and costs. Immersive video lecture systems allow universities like SJSU educators to exchange teaching opportunities with students and visiting lecturers around the world within the classroom. Participants can see and hear one another, and participate live in the education process regardless of location.

So what about ingenious ways of educating young minds? Our digital citizen, like so many young people, is looking for new and exciting ways to learn. Schools, like Camberwell Girls Grammar in Australia, are taking advantage of the digital movement and creating an environment for students to thrive by teaching them new skills of creativity, collaboration, and how to be innovative in their approach to learning.

Speaking of those new and innovative skills, our citizen is on the career hunt and the need for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) professionals is rapidly increasing. Workforce training programs are helping to provide unparalleled economic and societal contributions to communities and countries by having a more skilled and entrepreneurial workforce. Like Cisco’s Network Academy, which provides critical ICT education to more than 1 million students a year throughout the world – using that very technology to deliver the curriculum content.

The digital era is propelling us into a world where learning is embedded into daily life and no longer associated with traditional classrooms and school buildings. And education is on the move. The traditional model of knowledge-transfer is adapting to a collaborative, self-directed, engaging, and even customizable method that is helping to prepare students to succeed in today’s learning society.

Next Stop

Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s post. And be sure to check back each week as we explore new themes, challenges and observations.

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Additionally, you can click here and register now to get your questions answered on how to become the next digital community.

Finally, we invite you to be a part of the conversation by using the hashtag #WednesdayWalkabout and by following @CiscoGovt and @CiscoEDU on Twitter. For more information and additional examples, visit our Smart+Connected Communities, Education, and our Government pages on Enjoy the Wednesday walkabout!


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