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Social Innovation: Good for Society and Good for Business

Cisco Executive - Sandy Walsh

Sandy Walsh

Organizations are increasingly paying more attention to two areas that are critical to business success and sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and human capital development.

Sandy Walsh, Director of the Social Innovation Group in Cisco’s Asia Pacific region, shares her perspective on how taking a “shared value” approach can help to accelerate social impact while supporting business goals. The Social Innovation Group leverages Cisco’s technology and expertise to develop innovative solutions to address social challenges throughout Asia Pacific.

Q. Why is human capital development — particularly in information and communications technology (ICT) education and entrepreneurship — vital for the community development and economic growth of this region?

ICT is a growth enabler. I saw this when I first moved to Asia. However, the real challenge is to recruit talent with the relevant skills to exploit this technology. Without the human capacity to exploit the capabilities of ICT, it won’t deliver on its transformative potential for the region, whether that is in improving Industry productivity or improving the delivery of citizen services.

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Cisco Recognized for CSR Excellence in India

At Cisco India, we focus on addressing social issues where we believe we can have significant and lasting impact by applying our unique expertise to those issues.

For example, after floods devastated rural communities in Northern Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in October 2009, Cisco committed US$10 million in cash, services, solutions and equipment to support rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the Raichur district of Karnataka.

We called it Project Samudaya and our goal was to create a modern, rural community by giving it access to urban amenities such as quality healthcare and education. We deployed the Cisco Education Enabled Delivery (CEED) platform in Raichur to deliver remote education, and the Cisco HealthPresence solution to improve access to medical treatment and access to specialist consultants. Thousands of patients have benefited.

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Students Glimpse the Future of Technology at Cisco Live! Milan

Today Cisco held its second-annual Academy Day at the Cisco Live! conference in Milan, Italy. The event is sponsored by the Cisco Networking Academy program, which trains 1 million people worldwide each year in computer networking technology. The theme of Academy Day is Internet of Everything for Social Innovation, and more than 1000 college-age students from Italy and elsewhere participated in activities like:

Founders of the start-up Handisco demonstrate their networked walking stick that helps visually impaired people navigate cities.

During Academy Day at Cisco Live Milan, founders of the start-up Handisco demonstrated their networked walking stick, which helps visually impaired people navigate cities.

Also, for 44 hours, teams of students in Italy and Singapore will participate in a Hackathon for Social Innovation produced by Cisco Networking Academy. Their challenge is to create an application that uses collaboration technologies and networked connections to revolutionize the delivery of education.

The Hack-a-thon concludes on Wednesday, January 28 at 4 p.m. Milan time. Visit the Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility blog later this week to find out what happened! 

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Challenging the Next Generation of STEM Professionals

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.

The winning team, "Epidemask", applied technology to create social change in the healthcare field

The winning team, “Epidemask,” applied technology to create social change in the healthcare field

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.

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Cisco France Asks Students and Young Entrepreneurs to “Change the World” with Networked Connections

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.

Le Defi Cisco

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.

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