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Cisco and Latin America: New Opportunities, New Challenges

Last week, a delegation from Cisco, led by  President for Cisco Latin America Jordi Botifoll, had the opportunity to participate in the eighth meeting of the World Economic Forum on Latin America. (See video below). The theme of the event was “Delivering growth, strengthening societies.”

The event took place in Lima, Peru, a country which has recently enjoyed sustained economic strength and a vigorous business revival. That resurgence has helped it join the group of countries (Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Panama) driving Latin America’s economic development.

The topics discussed at this year’s Forum were radically different to previous years. Macro topics like macroeconomic stability, fiscal discipline and exchange rate policies, which dominated discussions at previous summits, gave way to micro topics such as the resurgence of the middle class, the future of education, competitiveness, productivity, innovation and new models for maintaining sustainable economic growth. Most conversations also contemplated the need to move in the short term, from an economy based on natural resources and raw materials, to one based on value-added sectors.

 This thematic shift is due, no doubt, to the successes in Latin America in the past decade. Indeed, during the last decade, the region as a whole has seen an unprecedented economic growth, at a time when other regions of the world have stopped growing or even decreased. One proof point:  in the last 10 years, Latin America added 50 million people to the middle class, and moved 70 million people of poverty. It is expected that economic growth in the region will hover around 4% in the coming years.

From the perspective of information and communication technologies ICT, the opportunities are huge. Only 10% of the population in the region has access to a fixed broadband connection today. It is anticipated that in the next five years, 400 million people will gain access to broadband, 260 million of them through wireless connections. Large investments in infrastructure will be needed to realize these goals.

From the perspective of education and jobs, it is estimated that nearly half of the 589 million people in the region are aged less than 25 years.  Innovative thinking will be required to deliver appropriate education to those young people, and to create 50 million new jobs for them in the next decade. This contrasts with the shortage of ICT professionals in the region by 2015, which we estimate will be approximately 300,000 trained professionals.

 Jordi Botifoll participated as a panelist in the session “New engines of growth.” In this and other discussions, we talked about the role technology and the network in particular plays to increase the competitiveness of the region and to enable productivity increases.

It is during these times of prosperity and optimism, and when the winds are in our favor, that the region needs structural reforms that will enable the region to be more competitive. And for this it is important to undertake long-term investments in critical areas such as education, technology and infrastructure and thus close the competitiveness gap with other countries.

If we do not have major changes in this regard, the region cannot maintain sustainable levels of economic growth and social inclusion. According to the Global Competitiveness rankings from WEF, among the 144 countries measured by the report, the country with the best position in the ranking from Latin America is Chile (33), followed by Panama (40), Brazil (48), Mexico (53), Peru (61), Colombia (69), Argentina (94). Still a long way to go. There are new opportunities for the region, but also great challenges ahead.

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Ever Have A Day Where So Much Goes Wrong But Still Works Out?

Today has been one of those days. I knew it was going to be a rough day when I hadn’t properly set my alarm this morning. The switch was in the middle between “on” and “off” and the middle equates to “off”. Fortunately, my internal clock was still ticking and by some miracle I woke up not much later then my semi-set bedside alarm was supposed to wake me. It’s amazing how quickly I can move when this happens. It must be the adrenaline rush that comes with the realization that I am now behind schedule on getting ready for work. This morning I was scheduled for a customer presentation. I have a 50 minute commute when there’s no traffic, I pad an additional half hour for rush hour. I was running about 10 minutes behind, but I could still make it on time if traffic was cooperating.

Traffic was not cooperating, at least not for the first leg of my commute. On the second leg of my commute traffic was moving nicely and I recovered some time. As I approached my half way mark (isn’t it something how many landmarks we have for our daily commute?) I saw that I was still 5 minutes ahead. I’m not panicking yet. I take the exit for the third leg of my commute and things are looking good for about 5 seconds, then traffic slows to a crawl and many times to a complete stop. Now I start to panic. I grab my mobile phone and send an e-mail to the presentation program manager letting her know I will need to reschedule 10-15 minutes later. If you happen to be a member of California law enforcement this is not an admission of guilt to the “hands-free” law. As I neared the presentation site, I used Jabber IM on my mobile phone to provide an update to the program manager (while stopped and not driving) and received an immediate response that everything was set. The new expectations were communicated and the customer filled the available time by going to the Cisco store. We had a great presentation.

Right after, I had a meeting to attend a couple buildings down, so I hustled over and got there just after start time. Only thing was, this was a virtual meeting. The only people in the conference room were the presenters. My laptop was back in the car two buildings over. However, the conference room was equipped with a display screen on the wall. The presenter sharing the content slides was able to display them on the in-room screen as well. I was now able to fully participate in the presentation by viewing the content as I listened.

Immediately after the presentation ended I had another call scheduled. I’m in a completely different building and without a workspace. Read More »

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What Does The Internet Of Everything Really Mean For Cisco Partners?

One way to look at the Internet of Everything (IoE) is that it’s about opportunity — and that the scope of that opportunity is astounding.

Cisco’s analysis holds that there’s about $14.4 trillion of economic value at stake as we unlock the potential of smart network connections to create new capabilities, provide richer experiences and spur unprecedented productivity for businesses, people and countries throughout the world. But we’re only beginning to explore how IoE is going to shape the business discussions, customer purchasing decisions and solution provider conversations of tomorrow.

One question that’s coming up more often from partners is this one: “What does the Internet of Everything really mean to me?”  Read More »

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Customers Desire More Personal Service From Their Banks

Some might argue that retail banking is known more for its inconveniences than its convenience. As an example, the common term ‘banker’s hours’ is synonymous with “being open for the shortest and most inconvenient amount of time”. Despite that legacy, retail banks have made a concerted effort and real progress to extend services through various delivery channels to improve the retail banking customer experience.

Banks may have closed the customer service gap with other industries, but like other industries, must stay ahead of the consumer to deliver an experience that provides profitable value and differentiation. According to a recent report, what most customers want from their banks is greater access and more personalized experiences (in the form of advice, products, and services).

It’s not a surprising conclusion especially to the banking industry which has adapted a retail industry term – omnichannel – to describe the needed capabilities to deliver a consistent customer experience across all channels.

The Cisco Connected Customer Experience Report for Retail Banking – a global survey of consumers and bank professionals conducted in early 2013 – highlights the opportunities and the challenges that banking institutions face in meeting current and future customer expectations. Globally, consumers ranked Read More »

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Weird? Or Previously Unexplored?

A connected toothbrush that gives you a virtual checkup every time you brush – is that weird, or near-term reality?

I recently came across the article “25 Weirdest Things in the ‘Internet of Things’” in InfoWorld, which focuses on the different – and what many might consider unorthodox – ways in which the Internet is now playing a part in our everyday lives. The article outlines the many things that could someday be connected to the Internet, and the chain reaction that these connections(and their insights) will have.

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