This blog was originally published on the Huffington Post ImpactX.

Digitization. This topic was top of mind for many of the 2,500 world business and government leaders at the recent World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Digitization is the full-scale adoption of computer- and Internet-enabled technologies by consumers, businesses and governments; it is important because it can grow economies and create jobs.

In fact, according to the 2013 Global Information Technology Report, adoption of such information and communication technologies (ICT) provided a $193 billion boost to world economic output and created 6 million jobs in 2011.

In the past, when we thought of Internet connectivity, we thought about devices – smartphones, computers, tablets. But today we can connect people, processes, data and things to the Internet – and completely re-engineer every aspect of our lives. At Cisco we call this the Internet of Everything, and it allows innovative thinkers to come up with better, smarter and less expensive ways to do things. It helps to save money, conserve resources and improve the way we do business, educate children and provide health care.

Clearly, there is great potential in a fully digitized world. But one thing stands in the way: We don’t have enough people with the skills to manage the growing number of Internet connections. Networking technology is at the heart of the Internet, connecting devices and local networks with the global public Internet. Planning, designing, building, managing and supporting IP networks all require dedicated networking skills.

To gauge the supply and demand of people with such skills, Cisco partnered with the research firm IDC to analyze the networking talent pool of 29 emerging market countries. What we found was alarming. There is a shortage of at least 1.2 million people skilled in Internet protocol (IP) networking. And that is just in the 29 countries surveyed.

Countries with an unbalanced supply and demand of networking professionals will miss out on an opportunity to grow their economies. Their business sector will be unable to capitalize on the market shift presented by the Internet of Everything, which we estimate holds $19 trillion in value for the public and private sectors worldwide over the next 10 years.

Why is there such a shortage of skilled networking professionals? And more importantly, how do we fix it? Seventy-five million young people are unemployed worldwide. If we can inspire some of them to train in networking technology, we can put more people back to work while filling a demand for our governments and businesses.

First, we need training programs targeted to job needs. Partnerships between public agencies and private companies can help. The US Telecommunications Training Institute is one example – it offers tuition-free training in 84 courses, including Internet technology, cybersecurity and rural connectivity through funding contributions from various U.S. government agencies and corporate members. From 1983 to 2014, over 1,940 courses have been taught to 9,076 participants from 171 developing countries.

The Cisco Networking Academy program is another example – in partnership with colleges, universities and other institutions, we have trained 5.5 million students in networking technology worldwide since 1997. Networking Academy curriculum can supplement computer science and technology courses in schools and help students develop the specific skills employers demand. From 2005 to 2013, more than 1.2 million students found jobs thanks to the program.

Second, we must mentor young people and support them on a path toward technology and networking careers. Women in particular can benefit from positive role models. According to Million Women Mentors, women comprise more than 20 percent of engineering school graduates, yet only 11 percent of practicing engineers are women. The US2020 initiative aims to match 1 million science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) mentors with students to increase awareness of STEM education and careers.

The outlook for digitizing the world is strong if we act together and act now. We all must work together to cultivate the public policies, the training programs and the enthusiasm that will enable us to harness the power of the Internet to benefit people, communities and the planet.



Tae Yoo

No Longer with Cisco