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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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Cisco CSR at Cisco Live US 2015: The Week in Pictures

At this time last week, the Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility team was in San Diego, California as part of Cisco Live US 2015. There, we participated in a number of different activities and events, from a Partner Pavilion in the expansive World of Solutions to a keynote featuring a member of the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team. We highlighted the work of partners like CyberPatriot, shared stories of impact around the globe, and helped students develop the skills necessary for careers in the IT industry.

More than 25,000 people attended Cisco Live US 2015 in San Diego, California.

More than 25,000 people attended Cisco Live US 2015 in San Diego, California.

Throughout the week, we explained how more devices are connecting to the Internet each day, and how these connections will create job opportunities for young men and women around the world. With the help of our partners and their innovative programs, we’re empowering these future global problem solvers with the skills they need to thrive and speed the pace of social change. Below, the story of Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility at Cisco Live US 2015 in pictures:

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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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A Half Million Likes on Facebook: Cisco Networking Academy Uses Social Media to Engage and Educate

Hilal_ChoumanThis post was written by Hilal Chouman, social media strategist for Cisco Networking Academy

Since late 2009, Cisco Networking Academy (NetAcad), one of Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs, has been present on various social media networks. The earliest presence was on the rising social network of that time: Facebook.

In late 2010, NetAcad’s Facebook page hit its first 100,000 likes. After this milestone, the Facebook page continued its growth, following the growth of the number of students in the NetAcad program.

Today, NetAcad’s Facebook page hit a half million likes (fans).

Cisco Networking Academy 500K Fans

It is amazing how a social presence can accelerate in content and size, as soon as it grasps the right connection with the audience.

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Video Helps Schools Reach and Teach Students More Effectively— Despite Tighter Budgets

By Joel Barbier, Cisco® Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG)

Educators face a number of challenges, from increased pressure to improve student performance on standardized tests to shrinking state and local budgets. In addition, instructors are leaving their classrooms for better opportunities, and students’ learning skills are tuned more to social media and new technologies than to traditional educational models. These challenges require that institutions transform the way they retain talent—and the way they reach and teach students.

Although they have used recorded videos for many years to introduce new experiences to students, and some have started employing web-based video technologies to save travel costs, most educational institutions do not understand the critical role video can play in scaling resources to improve education quality despite budget constraints. Read More »

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