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The Local Face of Global Hunger

Hunger reveals itself in different ways in different corners of the globe:

  • In India, where 43 percent of the country’s children are underweight, students line up in their school cafeteria for what may be their only meal of the day.
  • In the United Kingdom, people are exchanging vouchers for food at local food banks. Many of them are employed and living in their own homes, but have felt the effects of reduced wages and benefits, often skipping meals in order to feed their children.
  • In the United States, those who once donated to the local food banks are now accepting donations for their families – something as seemingly small as a necessary car repair can tip someone into food insecurity.

The scale of the problem is massive, but the organizations aiding those in need are deploying innovative solutions and leveraging technology to help meet the challenge.

Akshaya Patra operates 19 kitchens in Bangalore and throughout India and provides 1.3 million children with one filling, nutritious meal during the school day. For many children, this is their only meal. If Akshaya Patra did not provide it, the children would have to work to earn money to pay for food.

“Weakened by hunger, children are more vulnerable to disease, with tens of thousands dying every year,” says Binali Suhandani, director of resource mobilization, Akshaya Patra Foundation. “Millions more are physically and mentally stunted for life because they don’t get enough to eat in their crucial growing years.”

Akshaya Patra’s program is designed to improve the health of children, and as an incentive to attend school.  The latter being a critical step toward breaking the cycle of poverty that leads to hunger.

In the United Kingdom, it’s a different scene, with an estimated 13 million living below the poverty line. The causes are complex, but have been linked to low wages, benefit delays and cuts, as well as rising unemployment (currently 2.9 million people).   One in five mothers now reports regularly skipping a meal to feed their children.

According to Tim Partridge, foodbank network manager of the Trussell Trust, the largest foodbank network in the UK, one of the biggest misunderstandings is who hunger affects. The largest client base referred to the Trussell Trust is those who have experienced delays in receiving benefit claims (29 percent last year) or benefit changes (11.47 percent last year). Low income accounted for a further 19 percent of clients.

“Many people referred to us are employed and live in their own homes,” Partridge explains. “The idea that all hungry people are homeless or destitute is clearly inaccurate.”

To increase efficiency and target programs to those who need it most, the Trust utilizes a web-based stock system that allows multiple users access to data on warehouse stock and volume of clients served at locations across the network of 220 operational food banks. The system creates sequentially numbered food vouchers to be exchanged for food.  By knowing where the voucher is used, the Trust can get a better sense of where the community needs are and allocate resources to meet them most effectively.  The system also produces customized data reports to support funding applications and campaigning for additional resources.

In the U.S., at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, those who once donated have recently found themselves seeking assistance. In the 34 counties the Food Bank covers, more than 560,000 individuals live at or below the poverty line and many more are at risk. Thirty percent of at-risk households have one or more working adults, but an individual’s financial status can change abruptly within as little as 24 hours due to layoffs, onset of major illness or a change in marital status.

The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina provides five meals for every one dollar donated thanks to efficiencies driven, in part, by technology.  The organization is outfitted with IP voice and a robust networking infrastructure that allows them to operate online applications and track them. Additionally, a central network links most of the food bank locations to allow for seamless collaboration and communications.

No matter how hunger materializes around the globe, it remains a very real problem. What is encouraging is how organizations are meeting the need with innovative approaches, and how technology is helping them be as effective as possible.

Ultimately, these organizations believe that hunger is a solvable problem, especially with the right tools and resources in hand.  I know Cisco is committed to sharing our expertise, technology, and volunteer and financial support with non-profits addressing hunger in our local communities.  We certainly share the same end goal: to address the immediate needs of those suffering, while helping find sustainable solutions that ultimately put an end to global hunger.

Cisco’s annual Global Hunger Relief Campaign, the company’s signature employee giving initiative, is currently underway.  Now in its 10th year, the Campaign encourages employee donations to 140 hunger relief agencies and raises awareness among Cisco’s 66,000-strong global workforce of the severity of global hunger.  You can help too by telling us how you give on Facebook.  Cisco will donate four meals to the World Food Programme for every comment.

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The Smartphone Gets Which Side of the Bed?

A whopping 90% of young people use their smartphones to help them face the day …often BEFORE they get out of bed.

Even before a cup of coffee, young people grab their smartphone. They’re checking it for emails, texts and social media updates. The phone has become as much a morning ritual as the toothbrush.

When the recent third annual Cisco Connected World Technology Report surveyed 3,600 young people ages 18-30 from 18 countries about their tech habits, we found that Gen Y’s attachment to phones continues throughout the day:

  • 3 in 4 check their phones in bed;
  • More than a third check it in the bathroom (not sure which one makes me more
    nervous);
  • 46% text, email and check social media during meals;
  • 60% say they’re ‘compulsive’ about checking their smartphones and 42% admit to feeling ‘anxious’ when disconnected;
  • Two-thirds say they spend the same amount — or more time — with friends online as they do in person.

My Aha! moment from this study?  I may be a Boomer, but I’m not much different.

The gap between my generation and younger ones in how we use technology is getting smaller. (In fact, my smartphone is always the first thing I touch in the morning…because I use it for my alarm clock!)

Interestingly, as we older folks are getting more comfortable with technology (and seeing its value), younger people are getting less starry-eyed. For example, more than a third suspect that people present themselves differently online than in the physical world. This year’s study also found three out of four don’t trust Internet sites to keep their data private, and nearly a third are very concerned about security and identity theft.

This younger generation’s relationship with technology is really maturing. The first year we did this report, many Gen Yers were convinced that the Internet was more important than dating or having a car.

The results from Connected World are truly global. In India, for example, 96% use their smartphone first thing in the morning. Use our interactive map on cisco.com to hover over any country and get its stats. Here’s the snapshot for the U.S.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 4.42.44 AM

Another of the report’s interactive graphs is discovering your “data footprint” — or how much YOU are on your devices. Are you an explorer, highly connected or — like me– a super user?  Go here to do the test!

Here’s another way I see myself reflected in this year’s Connected World report. For many of us, there’s no clear line between work time and personal time. Work is what we do, not where we are. I used to have two phones – one for work and one personal. Now I have one phone for both. It’s truly an integrated life.

When it comes to shopping during the holidays, many of us mix our physical world with the online world, too. Cisco’s study found 90% of the young people surveyed shop online and 58% rely on customer reviews online. Oftentimes, we go into a store, price compare on our phones (or tablets), and complete a purchase on them before we leave.

We’re in a connected world. Our phones and all our network-connected devices are becoming an intrinsic part of ourselves. Now we just have to decide which side of the bed our phone gets.

Check out all the findings from the study here on the Connected World site. As always, we’d love your comments!

Happy holidays!

Carlos

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Cisco Announces Intent to Acquire BroadHop

With global IP traffic projected to increase threefold over the next five years – after having increased eightfold over the past five years – policy control and services creation at large scale has never been more vital for mobile and fixed communications service providers.

Cisco plans to add a critical piece of service creation technology to its portfolio today by announcing its intent to acquire Denver, Colorado-based BroadHop, a provider of next-generation policy control and service management technology for carrier networks worldwide. BroadHop’s widely deployed policy control solutions for mobile and fixed networks will be integrated into Cisco’s Service Provider Mobility Group to provide service providers the flexibility to control, monetize and personalize the types of service they choose, on any network.

How does this benefit customers and end-users directly? A service provider can integrate BroadHop technology to enable end-users to purchase customized premium service packages. For example, if a consumer desires premium on-demand streaming, BroadHop technology allows the service provider to add value to and monetize this particular service. In return, the user is granted a high level of service and premium bandwidth to ensure the best possible experience.

Cisco’s acquisition of BroadHop is also an evolutionary step in supporting Cisco’s Open Network Environment (ONE) for extensible network programmability. This policy infrastructure represents the baseline to monetization of the network and will enable Cisco to develop software services that empower network operators to deliver revenue-generating services, while enhancing the end-user experience.

BroadHop has been a key service provider Wi-Fi partner for Cisco, and this acquisition is a natural extension of our collaboration as we continue to engage tier-one global service providers with our combined technologies. This acquisition reinforces Cisco’s commitment to service providers by enabling policy control and service management across mobile, fixed and wireless broadband networks and adds value by driving the mobility network architecture to the next level.

Acquisitions and investments are a key part of Cisco’s build, buy and partner innovation framework and supports one of Cisco’s five foundational priorities to lead the market in networking across all customer segments. The BroadHop acquisition is well-aligned to Cisco’s goals of developing and delivering innovative network and software technologies, while also cultivating top talent. The BroadHop team will be integrated into Cisco’s Service Provider Networking Group, reporting to Shailesh Shukla, vice president and general manager of the company’s Software and Applications Group.

The BroadHop acquisition reinforces Cisco’s commitment to developing services that enable our service provider partners to succeed across mobile, fixed and converged networks, while allowing us to continue to lead and define important transitions in networking.

 

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Getting Your Mom’s iphone to do Your Homework and other Notes from a Connected World

The release of Cisco’s Connected World Technology Report this week put on paper the findings that most of us experience in our daily lives. Our world is connected more than ever before, and technology is changing the way we live and interact. Here are just a few examples of things I’ve come across lately. Read More »

The Internet of Everything? To Gen Y, the Internet IS Everything

Today, Cisco announced the 2012 findings from the annual Cisco Connected World Technology Report (CCWTR). Last year, CCWTR has found that, for about one third of Generation Y, staying connected to the Internet is just as important as air, food and water and two thirds would choose the Internet over a car! This year the CCWTR revealed that at the center of it all is the smartphone, which was identified as the single-most desired device for 18-30-year-olds globally.

We all have 206 bones in our bodies, but it could be argued that for Generation Y, the smartphone has become the 207th. In fact, 60 percent of respondents said they find themselves sub-consciously or compulsively checking their smartphones for emails, texts or social media updates. More than 40 percent would “feel anxious, like part of me was missing,” if they couldn’t check their smartphones constantly.

The smartphone is just about everywhere, it seems. Three out of four global CCWTR respondents said they use their smartphone in bed and more than a third use their smartphones in the bathroom. Enough said.

The need for these 18-30-year-olds to stay connected is stronger than ever and made me wonder just how far someone might go to keep that connection. I took to the streets of San Francisco with a cameraman by my side to find out and asked a few people just how important that mobile connection is for their lives. I asked some “Would you rather…?” type questions to see just how far some people will go stay connected.

How important is it for you to stay connected?

Join the conversation by following the #DataInMotion hashtag and follow Cisco on Twitter and Facebook for more “Would you rather…?” questions. Stay tuned for more video results from around the globe.