Yesterday, 500 Cisco employees assembled kits for two of our nonprofit partners, making the World Wide IT Manager’s Offsite (WWITMO) “Giving Back” event Cisco’s largest volunteer effort ever. Two-hundred volunteers assembled hands-on activity kits for Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT) and 300 assembled hygiene and snack kits for HomeFirst at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, California.
As a recent graduate of San Jose State University (SJSU), I’ve seen how technology can improve education. Wi-Fi access in every classroom is eliminating the PowerPoint lectures of old and replacing them with 21st-century lesson plans. Students are interacting with professors using social media, answering questions with a tweet or streaming videos during presentations to make learning more engaging. At Cisco’s Silicon Valley Innovation Jam on October 24, I served as a pre-finalist judge and saw how over 60 SJSU students would use this same technology to solve social problems in the near future.
By 2020, there will be 50 billion devices connected to the Internet. Today, I can name more than 10 “smart” devices in my house that require an Internet connection. As more people, processes, data, and things become connected, the “Internet of Everything” will require people to change the way they work, live, play and learn. Students at the Innovation Jam were tasked with creating a solution that harnesses these connections to improve society – whether education, healthcare, energy, retail, or city/public services.
One of the nonprofits we support through our Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, Water for People, is on track to providing easy access to safe water and sanitation to everyone in Malawi, Africa, where just 5 years ago, only 41% had access to a reliable water source.
Water for People supports the development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education programs – with a focus on using technology to monitor projects and collect and analyze data. These programs are helping Water for People reach its mission of delivering water to “Everyone Forever” in 30 districts in 9 countries serving over 4 million individuals.
Cisco began supporting Water for People in 2010, with a Global Impact Cash Grant to help develop Field Level Operations Watch (FLOW) — a mobile application that can be used to collect, manage, and analyze data on the condition of wells and pumps in remote locations. Water for People is using this tool in the Chikwawa district of Malawi to monitor 98 different water points, collecting usage data and pictures of the condition of the water systems.
Yesterday, Cisco and Junior Achievement of Northern California hosted Cisco’s inaugural Social Innovation Challenge on our San Jose campus. Fifty high school students from nearby Independence High School and Sequoia High School worked together in small groups to create and pitch ways to connect the unconnected.
I watched as excited students presented ideas to improve the patient/physician relationship and make the experience at the San Francisco 49er’s new stadium easier for fans. Their collaboration led them to brainstorm creative solutions that use technology in new and unanticipated ways. The winning team, “Epidemask,” pitched the concept of a blue-chip enabled gel facemask that prevents the spread of viruses while also communicating to authorities which regions need specific vaccinations.
It’s always fun to see students pour their energy into something like this. At the Social Innovation Challenge, we get the chance to watch kids organize new ideas and stand up in front of a panel of judges in a competitive environment. This format is great because it teaches them what the social problems are and how they can use technology and connections to solve them.
Last Wednesday, October 1, Cisco France announced its second annual Le Défi Cisco – or The Cisco Challenge. This competition is created and led by Cisco volunteers and encourages college students and young entrepreneurs to develop technology projects that address social or environmental issues. All entries must harness the Internet of Everything – the connections among people, process, data, and things.
Building on the success of the first competition, where the winning team of Cisco Networking Academy students from the city of Nancy designed a connected white stick for the blind, Cisco France decided to multiply the competition’s impact by redesigning the format.
This year, 2 parallel contests will run: one for students still in school, and the other for young entrepreneurs with an already-matured project. After the closing of applications on January 4, 2015, a jury will select 6 finalist teams. Finalists will each receive support from Cisco mentors who will help them mature their projects and prototype the solutions for the final jury. Both winners will be awarded with a €15,000 cash prize, Cisco mentoring, and equipment to create their new business.
The two winning projects will be incubated by SenseCube, a start-up accelerator dedicated to social entrepreneurs, and a new partner for this second edition. It’s a perfect match with “Le Défi Cisco” concept as its philosophy is to support entrepreneurs in mixing digital technologies and community support to create and implement high-impact solutions on a global scale.