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IoT: Using Technology for the Developing World

As we enter 2016, I can’t help but reflect on the staggering success and take up of the Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to any device able to connect to the Internet. Mobile penetration is booming, broadband access continues to soar, more and more devices are being developed with sensors and wireless capability built in, while the cost of the technology and connectivity continues to plummet.

All of these factors are driving the vast appetite for the IoT, translating into new business models, increased productivity, growing prosperity and new opportunities.

The IoT after all is one of the defining and transformative technologies of our time. Yet, while it is already making huge efficiency and productivity gains in the industrialized world, we cannot overlook the potential for even greater and more significant impact in the developing world.

With over 700 million people or 9.6% of the world’s population living in extreme poverty (below USD $ 1.90 per day) it’s hard not to see the imperative. The ability to impact millions, if not billions, of lives for the better is within our grasp and is an opportunity we can’t afford to miss. This is why Cisco and the ITU have contributed to a discussion and new joint report, Harnessing the Internet of Things for Global Development for the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.

Simple sensors save lives.

For example, IoT devices are improving sanitation for local communities and increasing efficiency and ensuring greater operating up time by monitoring critical water, sanitation and health equipment. And in Kenya, connected sensors monitor and automatically report faulty refrigerators in medical centers to ensure medicines do not go off and that replacement parts are directed to needy facilities in the shortest possible time – saving lives and resources while reducing cost for those combating life threatening diseases.

So how do we grasp one of the most important technological evolutions of our time for the developing world, and ensure we do not create a new digital divide?

It’s easier than we may think: there is no vast mountain to climb, no great chasm to cross, no global money pot to tap and no great unknown infrastructure to invent and build. The elements required mostly already exist.

The developed world’s demand for IoT technologies and connectivity means that IoT devices are now readily available, affordable and scalable for the developing world: providing the perfect platform to kick start emerging economies and provide much improved quality of life.

IoT R&D costs have been, and continue to be, borne by a hungry developed world market and there is little effort in “tweaking” IoT devices for the developing world. In fact, IoT devices are increasingly common, affordable and easy replaceable making them a de facto new commodity. And, complex new infrastructure is not immediately required or necessary for developing markets as a core infrastructure is readily available and provides a digital backbone to build upon – 95% of the world’s population has 2G coverage and 65% 3G coverage.

Interconnectedness is ultimately the key to increased usage and benefits. Fortunately, interoperability between devices is increasing, making operating and synchronizing a variety of “incompatible” devices possible and practical.

As for scalability, IoT devices are designed to be scalable. Many devices are now simple Plug & Play, making them easy to install and maintain. Reduced and alternate power supplies, like solar, wind and even changes in environmental factors such as moisture, can maintain sensors and networks where there is no consistent electricity supply, making them ideal for locations with irregular or unavailable grid power.

So the elements for a hyper connected IoT environment are here to be built upon – but without the proper foundation they may be unable to take hold and thrive. That’s where forward thinking governments can help. The markets have developed the technology and absorbed initial device costs; it’s now time for government policies supporting private sector initiatives, innovation and investment for the developing world.

In this regard, there are three key elements to achieving global success and delivering on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mandate of a world without poverty.

First, we must act now. As was the case with voice telephony and the Internet, we run the risk of creating a new digital divide with IoT. This is avoidable if we move quickly. The elements are in place for us to create an environment where all economies and societies benefit from a truly IoT interconnected world. We cannot take this for granted. Let’s embrace it. I urge leaders in the developing world to seize the opportunity and, working with the private sector, prioritize a digital future for their nations and ensure the IoT takes root and thrives.

Second, invest early. Make necessary spectrum available to connect the wide range of diverse IoT devices. Encourage industry to develop, adopt, and use global standards that will enable interoperable and lower cost devices. Support the investment in the infrastructure necessary for local data centers such as reliable and quality electricity, skilled labor and, where necessary, incentives for investment.   And, support and foster global data flow among data centers to take advantage of scale, reliability and lower costs. By increasing the spectrum available to accommodate the increased traffic and connectivity and encouraging next generation data centers, countries can position themselves to take full advantage, both now and in the future, of the exponential growth in devices and data.

Finally, create, build and maintain trust. Without the belief that data is secure and will benefit all users, citizens, companies and the public sector, adoption and use of IoT will be slowed. Governments can mitigate this risk by engaging early with the private sector to foster the development and implementation of robust security technologies to keep data safe, networks secure and users reassured.

The world has a unique opportunity to raise the quality of life for millions, if not billions of people across the developing world and short circuit a new digital divide. The key is to accelerate the development and deployment of IoT across the developing world.

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Cisco Joins Global Problem Solvers at 2016 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

This week, more than 2,500 leaders from business, government, academia, and civil society will convene at the 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. As one of those attendees, Cisco will collaborate with other global problem solvers in strategic discussions about the political, economic, social, and technological transformations reshaping the world.

This year marks Cisco’s 14th as a WEF Strategic Partner, putting us in a group of 100 companies committed to changing the world. Our annual inclusion in WEF gives us the opportunity to build and strengthen the relationships that help us address some of the world’s biggest challenges. One of the key challenges being discussed as this year’s summit is “employment, skills and human capital,” with a focus on how to create 470 million new jobs in the connected economy by 2030.

More than 2,500 leaders from around the world will convene in Davos, Switzerland this week for the 2016 WEF Annual Meeting

More than 2,500 leaders from around the world will convene in Davos, Switzerland this week for the 2016 WEF Annual Meeting

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Cisco Joins Global Problem Solvers at 2015 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

This week, the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting will convene 2500 leaders from business, government, academia, and civil society in Davos, Switzerland. There, these global problem solvers will engage in strategic discussions about the political, economic, social, and technological transformations reshaping the world.

Cisco has been a WEF strategic partner for 17 years, putting us among a select group of 100 global companies committed to improving the state of the world. Being part of WEF gives us an opportunity to build and strengthen the relationships that help us address some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers speaks during the session 'The Global Business Context' at the WEF Annual Meeting in 2012. Photo: World Economic Forum

Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers speaks during the session ‘The Global Business Context’ at the WEF Annual Meeting in 2012. Photo: World Economic Forum

On Wednesday, January 21, Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers will participate in a livestreamed panel on The New Digital Context at 9 a.m. CET (midnight PT). He will discuss how regulatory, behavioral, and technological changes are transforming the digital landscape with Liu Jiren, chairman and CEO of Neusoft Corp.; José María Álvarez-Pallete, chief operating officer of Telefónica; Max Levchi, co-founder of PayPal and CEO of Affirm; and Pierre Nanterme, chairman and CEO of Accenture.

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After Broadband, Then What? The Real Work Begins

Howard Baldwin - PhotographBy Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

I find myself writing more often about the challenges of getting broadband installed – financing it, building consensus, partnering with the private sector. The goal, as has been written many times, is create a foundation for economic growth.

But even after broadband is installed, economic growth doesn’t just happen automatically. It has to be nurtured. That’s the challenge that cities, regions, and countries have to be aware of. The work doesn’t stop once broadband transmissions start.

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What’s Next for the Internet of Everything and Cities?

Today’s cities are experiencing the emergence of a new imperative from public leaders and industries. “Digital urbanism” is rapidly becoming a central pillar for urban planners, architects, developers, and transportation providers, as well as in public service provision.

From a public leadership perspective, cities can be viewed as microcosms of the interconnected networks that make up the Internet of Everything (IoE). In fact, cities serve as “fertile ground” for realizing value from IoE.

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