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No Inclusive Growth Without Women and Girls in ICT

Last week we partnered with the WEF in launching the 2015 Global Information Technology Report highlighting the importance of closing the gender gap in ICT to ensure everybody benefits from ICTs. Today as we celebrate the ITU’s Girl in ICT day all around the world, we recognize the challenge in front of us: fewer women and girls than men and boys use mobile phones and the Internet, fewer girls have shown interest in ICT careers, and fewer women currently hold positions in this industry.

Some of the statistics are sobering:

  • Teenage girls are 5 times less likely to consider a technology-related career compared to boys of the same age, even though the way in which each gender uses computers and the Internet is nearly identical.
  • Only 18% of undergraduate computer science degrees were awarded to women in the United States between 2008 and 2011.
  • In OECD countries, women account for less than a fifth of ICT-related specialists.

The ramifications of not encouraging young girls to cultivate a love of science, technology, engineering, and/or math (STEM) – and more specifically, ICT – are broad reaching and impacts countries, communities and individuals. An enormous gap exists between the size of the ICT workforce demanded and the current global supply. Simply put, more positions are available or are in the process of being created than there are skilled workers to fill them. Employers around the world are struggling to fill hundreds of thousands of ICT jobs, and part of the problem is the lack of women trained in these fields.

The inadequate supply of skilled ICT workers is an economic problem compounded by the gender gap. The shortage leads to underachievement of an economy’s potential economic output, caps country competitiveness, limits potential employment gains and hinders innovation.

In 2015, the shortage of skilled IP networking professionals will be at least 1.2 million. In some countries, such as Costa Rica, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, there may be over a 45% gap. Even where countries have a relatively low shortage (e.g., Australia and Korea), the gap ranges between 10 to 20%. And in all countries, the networking skills gap is growing – due in large part because of positive developments such as increasing connectivity, the Internet of Everything, rising digitization of all business activity, globalization of trade and travel, and economic growth.

While a wide range of economic and cultural influences drive these gaps, one resounding reality is clear: empowering women and girls to pursue careers in ICT, helping close the IP skills gap, is no longer simply a good thing to do—it has become essential.

Closing the digital gender gap is not easy, but with sustained and persistent effort, the private sector, in conjunction with NGOs and the public sector, can empower women while benefiting measurably in the long run. Below are a few recommendations for achieving inclusive growth:

  1. Transform Existing Models of Education to more boldly foster children’s interest in STEM, starting with early childhood education, as well as encourage both girls and boys to maintain an interest in math and science by finding ways to make learning more fun, engaging, and accessible. Cisco is working with incredible community partners like MIND Research Institute and Citizen Schools to meet this goal, with the hope of not only expanding the population of students that has adopted an interest in STEM, but to also enhance the quality of work that these students bring into the classroom.
  1. Invest in STEM Mentoring to provide students with role models who may inspire them to consider careers in these fields by connecting students in high school and college to STEM professionals. By participating, schools and participating organizations are challenging psychological barriers to student success. Students need champions to look up to as they explore their career options – when they see success in action, they are more likely to pursue it for themselves. Cisco is proudly committed to mentorship through its engagement with US2020, an initiative inspired by the White house to encourage STEM mentoring amongst leading corporations. As a founding partner of US2020, Cisco has pledged that 20% of our U.S. workforce will spend 20 hours a year in STEM mentoring by 2020, with particular emphasis on the mentorship of girls.
  1. Develop the 21st Century Workforce to prepare and train employees who are critical to our networked future. Investing in ICT workforce development is essential for future economic success. More individuals must be equipped with the skills necessary to design, build, maintain, and secure tomorrow’s innovations so that they are prepared to enter a workforce that is constantly adapting to emerging 21st century technologies. Cisco’s Networking Academies represent our organization’s enduring commitment to promoting and training the next generation of skilled ICT workers, engaging over 5 million students in 170 different countries since 1997. While most of these academies are co-educational, many are targeted specifically toward young women. One such program is at Effat University in Saudi Arabia, whose mission is to embolden women to become leaders through expanded employment options and career advancement training. Today, the program is training the next generation of women trailblazers in Saudi Arabia’s tech sector.

These suggestions represent only a few examples of how organizations, like Cisco, can close the gender gap in ICTs. Today as Cisco celebrates Girls in ICT day by hosting over 3,300 girls from 56 countries across 91 locations, we recognize that the economic incentives are in place; the demand for skilled labor is omnipresent and overwhelming; and the global imperative to empower women and girls has been expressed and agreed to on an international scale. With cooperative action, we can solve two of the world’s challenges in one fell swoop; investing in women and girls is not just smart for society – it’s smart for business.

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Myth-busting: White-box Switches are No Bargain

In the last episode of our myth-busting series, Cisco SDN expert Frank D’Agostino and I are debunking the myth of the bargain priced white-box switch. White boxes aren’t a new subject in the market, but customers are just now starting to evaluate them for return on investment. So, where to start? When considering a white-box deployment, it is crucial to do all of the math. You must consider both the capital costs and the ongoing operational costs of this type of solution.

Two independent reports show that the up-front cost savings of a white-box switch are marginal as compared to those of traditional vendors. Deutsche Bank published “Whitebox Switches are Not Exactly a Bargain” in 2013, while Forrester Research recently released a study titled, “The Myth of White-Box Network Switches,” (February 20, 2015).

While the cost of a white-box and traditional switch are fairly similar from a capital expenditure point of view, Cisco analysis shows that white-box switches are more expensive when you include operational expenditures, such as the integration of third party software, tools and support costs. In fact, these real-life deployment factors can result in a total cost of ownership for Cisco that is approximately 20-30 percent less expensive than the full deployment of white-box switches.

Bottom line: White-box switches have hidden costs that make them more expensive than traditional switches when fully deployed. When you add up the cost of hardware, third-party software, integration and support, they are clearly no bargain. Check out our video conversation for more on this topic.

 

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Should women consider a career in cybersecurity? Absolutely!

With the United Nations’ International Girls in ICT day fast approaching on April 23rd, this is a great opportunity to discuss how we can get young women involved in careers in technology. Cybersecurity is an ever-present issue with companies and individuals suffering attacks daily. At Cisco, we believe that protection from threats does not rely on a single technology or solution, it incorporates both the processes and of course, the people. It is predicted that by 2017, an additional two million security professionals will be needed, but what many young people – particularly women – underestimate, is how rewarding and far-reaching a career in cybersecurity can be.

Taking, the UK as one example, cybersecurity employs 40,000 people and is worth £6 billion to the economy. Yet according to the Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report, more than one million positions for information security professionals remain unfilled around the world. What’s more, is that female cybersecurity staff only account for 11 percent of the global workforce. In Europe, the figures are even worse, coming in at only 7 percent .

Today there still remains a notion that IT is a “man’s job”. Women thinking of applying are often dissuaded as they may lack the confidence needed at the very start to pursue this career path. Yet, not only is this job market growing, but these jobs pay higher than other industries. We must do what we can to encourage young women to be fearless and pursue these fields of study, because they add new perspectives in the workplace that benefit business outcomes.

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Myth-busting: Is Cisco’s Approach to SDN Open?

In our continuing myth-busting series, Cisco SDN expert Frank D’Agostino and I are debunking trendy technology myths around SDN.

The more I speak to customers these days, the more I hear them talk about open. Customers want an infrastructure that is programmable and based on open standards. They want rapid feature integration and network automation. And they’re looking to take advantage of third-party tools and existing assets, and integrate them efficiently and cost-effectively into a modern network.

To address these needs, Cisco has modernized our operating system NX-OS through programmability, provided open northbound and southbound APIs for ACI, and established an open Partner Ecosystem—which even includes some of our competitors—for the integration of third-party tools.

But that’s not all. Cisco has a history of contributing technology innovations to open and standards initiatives, and things are no different with SDN. In the past year, for example, we’ve opened up and published our ACI interfaces and have contributed ACI’s Group Based Policy model to OpenDayLight and OpenStack.  We’ve also published the OpFlex standard to the IETF and worked with the open source community to provide a reference implementation of the OpFlex agent, which is leveraged by the OpenStack and Linux communities. In addition, we’ve created an open model to enhance SDN network agility and make it easier for customers to manage virtual machines using BGP-EVPN (which stand for Border Gateway Protocol and Ethernet Virtual Private Network respectively) with VXLAN. Our goal is to provide openness and scale in a multi-vendor environment.

Bottom line: Cisco embraces an open approach through open APIs, open standards, open source contributions. Customers benefit because they can integrate with their existing tools and appliances, and that really represents true investment protection.

We look forward to reading your comments and feedback.

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New Oil & Gas Study Reveals a Disrupted Industry Primed for Digital Transformation, Fueled by the Internet of Everything

If ever there was an industry and a time that epitomize “disruption,” it is the oil and gas industry today. Price declines of more than 50 percent since June 2014 have upended the sector, and dominate the agendas of industry executives. In fact, a new Cisco study identified “energy price volatility” as the external market force causing greatest concern for the industry today. The study, “A New Reality for Oil & Gas: Complex Market Dynamics Create Urgent Need for Digital Transformation,” shows an industry ripe for transformation by the Internet of Everything (IoE).

In the past, oil and gas (O&G) companies have attempted to address oil-price declines by resorting to short-term cost-cutting measures to see them through the slump. But this time is different. For one thing, it does not appear that prices will recover any time soon—if at all. Demand is down, and new production technologies are driving efficiencies that will increase production and keep prices low for the long term. This time, O&G firms will need to do more than cut costs – they’ll need to change their operating models through digital transformation.

For the study, we interviewed oil and gas executives, consultants, and analysts in 14 countries about the industry’s challenges, opportunities, and priorities. These experts identified intelligence from data as the key area needed to improve operational efficiency, and data analytics as the No. 1 driver of faster, better decision-making.

Additionally, the survey named faster problem resolution, better process control, and improved worker safety as the top three business benefits of IoE-powered technologies. The top three IoE-driven operational benefits were improved production efficiency, reduced downtime, and equipment performance optimization.

As an industry, oil and gas has been “digitized” for some time. True digital transformation, however, now requires adoption of the Internet of Everything — the networked connection of people, process, data, and things — throughout the value chain. Innovative firms are using today’s turbulent market landscape as an opportunity to grab competitive advantage by harnessing new IoE technologies. Read More »

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