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Creating a New Skills Framework for the Digital Economy

In today’s hyper-connected economy, every company is a digital business. Technology professionals play an integral role in driving business outcomes, and that requires a new skills framework. There are new demands for IT expertise in a changing technology environment. For the individual, rapid change is driving the need for continuous skills refresh. For the enterprise, technology expertise must link to business outcomes. For the industry, a new skills framework is needed to develop cross-technology and cross-functional leaders.

The IT jobs of the future are being defined now, but many organizations and individuals are being left in the lurch. In fact, a report from the MIT Center for Digital Business Research found that nearly 80 percent of companies consider missing digital skills to be the key hurdle to digital business transformation.

To overcome this hurdle and stay ahead of disruption, a broader perspective is required – one that goes beyond the traditional infrastructure model. It’s a view not limited to just a network topology or architecture discussion, but rather, one that looks to the opportunities made available through evolving technologies. Additionally, organizations must be able to use these emerging technology trends to drive business outcomes.

Raising the Bar

That’s why Cisco is evolving its certification program to ensure that candidates are prepared for new and changing job roles that unfold with emerging technologies.

Core technology expertise is essential, of course, but practical IT expertise in a single, siloed technology area is no longer a differentiator. IT professionals also must have a clear understanding of the evolving and disruptive technologies that are fueling innovation.

With this evolution of the career certification program, Cisco is ensuring IT professionals are equipped with the skills and education needed for evolving technologies such as Cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), and network programmability. Read More »

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Connecting Schools and Students Via Smart Policy

Around the world, over 57 million children of primary school age do not have access to quality education and over 250 million children cannot read or write by the time they reach grade four. In addition, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) of the United Nations estimates that over 4 billion people have yet to connect to the Internet and the positive economic and social benefits that it enables. With dedicated effort, national policy programs can tackle these twin social challenges simultaneously.

Highlighting a path forward, today Cisco is launching a new report, School Connectivity for the 21st Century, which explores the various national initiatives of five countries that have achieved near universal school Internet connectivity. The report assesses the different government policies and programs that have been successful in extending Internet connectivity to primary and secondary schools in Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, Uruguay, and the United States. Collectively, the case studies demonstrate that broadband Internet connectivity, as a complement to educational programs, improves outcomes and equips students with the skills necessary to live, work, and thrive in our increasingly digital world.

Most countries around the world have some sort of school connectivity program. Unfortunately, though, connection speeds are often slow and connectivity rarely extends past the front office and into classrooms. While some countries may be connecting schools, they may not be connecting teachers and students to the global learning community.

Effective implementation of public policy not only connects more students to the Internet, but also facilitates real improvements to educational outcomes. The report finds that:

  • Broadband technology is an essential component in the iterative process of enhancing student achievement;
  • Dedicated national school connectivity programs can successfully extend Internet access to the majority of a country’s schools within only four or five years;
  • A range of funding mechanisms can be utilized to support school connectivity, from universal service funds to public-private partnership models; and
  • The amount of connectivity within a school (i.e., the local area networks, LAN) is just as important as the amount of connectivity provided to the school.

Given these findings, we recommend that policy leaders focus on broadband Internet and ICT adoption within schools to accelerate the positive impact of technology on education. The report highlights ‘good practices’ in comprehensive national school connectivity programs. These include: a high level vision; a detailed plan with targets; secure and recurring funding; a comprehensive focus on technology requirements; an emphasis on the development and integration of relevant educational content tailored to the learning environment; concurrent training for educators; and regular monitoring and evaluation of the program.


Several technological aspects of school connectivity programs work in concert to ensure that a
robust system is available for students and educators, namely: bandwidth to the school, within-school connectivity, district-wide access, and complementary hardware and software. The experience of the programs reviewed here demonstrates that, over time, per-student bandwidth needs are regularly updated and
that local area networks (LANs), which provide connectivity within schools, are essential not only to extend connectivity throughout the campus, but also to achieve real outcomes by supporting collaboration and access to resources for every student and educator.

As Horace Mann, a pioneer in education reform in the 19th century, once said, “education, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men – the balance wheel of the social machinery.” Today, nearly two centuries later, let us apply the lessons of history to lingering global challenges by extending educational opportunities – as well as Internet access – to all.

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The Importance of Security Skills in Today’s Workplace

Information technology and its use have transformed every aspect of society. In today’s digital economy, every company requires effective security to protect their information. Security breaches mean lost intellectual property, compromised customer information, and reduced customer confidence. These are critical considerations as organizations become more agile and try to grow their business models to leverage evolving trends of mobility, cloud and digitization.

The number of connected devices alone is expected to grow to 50 billion sensors, objects, and other connected “things” by the year 2020. With this, the number and type of attack vectors will increase, as will the amount of data, creating a daunting challenge for companies and those responsible for defending the infrastructure.

Cybersecurity has expanded from just focusing on building secure technology perimeters, to now also working with business management to reduce security risks – as well as detecting, responding to, investigating and handling security events when they occur. As a result, security is not a point-in-time component, but rather, it must be a part of every deployment, every development and every decision.

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Who to trust in training – what you need to know

The convergence of market transitions, ranging from collaboration and video to virtualization and cloud-based services, is fundamentally changing the way businesses acquire and use technology.

The most successful organizations use training to evolve their practices and seize upon market opportunities, increase growth and build customer retention. In the competitive marketplace, the way to thrive is to arm your employees with the best and most comprehensive skills training.

In fact, certifying the skills of IT staff members is the single biggest predictor of IT project success, according to IDC’s December 2014 report, Market Analysis Perspective: Worldwide and U.S. IT Education and Certification Services.

All training is not equal, however.

A recent survey of Cisco Authorized Learning Partners found that 63 percent of their customers think that unauthorized training is lower priced. When it comes to training, however, the old adage rings true – you get what you pay for.

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Educause: How Cisco is Supporting the Digital Transformation in Higher Education

As EDUCAUSE officially gets underway, I wanted to share with you some of the Cisco Education solutions for the Digital Campus and Digital Learning that we’re demonstrating at our booth. The Internet of Things is making it easier than ever for students and faculty to collaborate, improving schools’ efficiency and expanding education opportunities. We’re so excited about our portfolio of smart, network-centric solutions that are helping to transform classrooms and campuses across the country.

For example, we’ve got a whole host of tools used to create a digital campus – both in the classroom and beyond. Classrooms can use Cisco WebEx for remote or distance learning. Tools like SpeakerTrack, which is a dual-camera system used with a video solutions like Cisco TelePresence that allows participants in a video meeting to see the active speaker on the other end of a call in full view, make remote learning even more immersive and help give students the best possible educational experience. And Cisco Spark allows teams to send messages, video chat and share files all in one place, which enables instructors to work closely together and makes it even easier for students to collaborate on group projects.

Outside the classroom, Cisco has smart solutions to help campuses run efficiently, like smart lighting that helps colleges and universities save on energy costs and smart parking that helps campus parking lots run more smoothly. We also have solutions that focus on the safety and security of your campus. We’re demonstrating FireSIGHT here at EDUCAUSE, which helps identify many aspects of network visibility. This information can be used to automatically prioritize events, modify policy and block threats which save money and improve security.

Additionally, new digital solutions from Cisco partners make it easier than ever for colleges and universities to reap the benefits of collaboration in the classroom. VBrick’s Capture, Transform and Share tools allow instructors and students to maximize the benefits of video collaboration tools, allowing for on-demand viewing and easy editing and sharing. And with CirQlive, you can now easily integrate your Cisco WebEx with your learning management system to improve learning outcomes.

Other tools from our partners help improve campus security. For example, iOmnicient’s Facial Recognition solution can help keep students safe on campus and in dorms. The University of San Francisco is utilizing it right now to control access to their residence halls to keep the students who reside in them safe. Plus, the Splunk Cisco Security Suite can help security teams take full advantage of the information collected across their Cisco security devices and enables a single, comprehensive view for complete situational awareness.

All of these solutions are part of the ongoing digitization of higher education, using the Internet of Things to give administrators and instructors easy, efficient and cost-effective solutions to help them meet their goals: improving student outcomes, increasing efficiency, enhancing safety and security, and expanding research capabilities. If you’re at EDUCAUSE, make sure you stop by our booth, #1121, to see these Cisco Education solutions in action!

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