Gary Locke, the US Secretary of Commerce, recently visited Chile to participate in the third Americas Competitiveness Forum. We had the honor and the privilege to spend a dedicated session with Secretary Locke to discuss the Cisco Entrepreneur Institute and how this initiative is helping to foster entrepreneurship throughout Chile.
The Institute already has much to feel proud about – to date, it has improved the business and information technology (IT) skills of 220 entrepreneurs from Santiago, Puente Alto and Valparaíso in Chile.
In the next 12 months, 850 more entrepreneurs from small- and medium-sized businesses are scheduled to undertake training at the Institute.
The Institute was launched in Chile in November 2008 in partnership with the Minister of Economy and is one of several educational programs that Cisco is hosting in Chile, Latin America and other emerging markets countries.
Small- and medium-sized companies and their entrepreneurial leaders are critical to stimulating sustainable employment, exports and innovation. These factors contribute to the success of the overall economy.
Access to IT solutions, education and broadband network connectivity result in a better quality of life and create sustainable growth opportunities, by assisting businesses to save costs, maintain productivity and reach new markets – both in Chile and abroad. However, despite the indisputable advantages of IT and broadband technology, more than 60 percent of businesses are not using these two enablers to their advantage, according to a study from the Internet Business Solution Group from Cisco.
The Institute objective is to equip business owners with the appropriate skills they require to run successful businesses, including how to use the Internet to optimize business processes, and using a web portal and collaboration technology to improve communication.
Maria Ximena Hernandez’s small cake decorating business has benefited from her newfound IT skills, courtesy of a course she completed at the Institute.
She said the following to Secretary Locke during the session: “Before I joined the Institute, I only knew how to use email, but the training has encouraged me to use technology and incorporate it into business processes. Since the training, I have created a website for my business and started using business applications.”
There are a number of other examples, including Marisa Carvajal, who owns a loom craft company.
Marisa lacked basic computer skills, but now can operate a computer, send email and browse the web. She acknowledges that her experience at the Institute has helped to grow her small business.