Over a year has passed since businesses, citizens and governments were forced to adapt to radical change and move to a new reality. Now is the time when we decide what lessons we’ve learned from this unprecedented crisis and determine what type of future we want to build. It’s clear that we are not going back to the way things were. We have it in our power to build a more inclusive, sustainable and digital world.

Digital technologies powering the green transformation 

In December 2020, European leaders reached an agreement on an unprecedented recovery plan, NextGenerationEU. Within this deal, the Recovery and Resiliency Facility (RRF) provides €672.5 bn for EU Member States to implement reforms and investments. This landmark recovery effort aims at truly shifting our economies and societies towards a more sustainable and connected model.

While each country has defined their own priorities, all plans must dedicate 37% of funds for green- and 20% for digital-oriented projects, and many countries have chosen to dedicate well beyond the minimum 20% to digital projects. The plans put forward by Spain, France, Germany or Italy are encouraging examples.

This moment for reinvention allows every industry the opportunity to create a more sustainable future. As the world’s largest provider of networking, collaboration, and security technologies, Cisco’s products not only help drive connectivity, productivity, and security, they also help reduce energy consumption and the use of natural resources by cities, businesses, and communities.

There are technologies available for roll out today that can grant a head start on the road to a greener and more digital Europe. A compelling example is Cisco’s partnership with Enel, Italy’s largest utility provider and second-largest power company in the world. Using Cisco technology, Enel can monitor its energy grid and pre-emptively address any faults or failures that threaten the network. By making Enel’s grid smarter, we help reduce energy loss and cut C02 emissions.

Projects such as these are a great way to showcase the potential for immensely powerful synergies that unlock critical investments in grid optimisations and digitisation.

Driving the green and digital recovery in an inclusive way

While progress for both a green and digital future is vital, so is ensuring that the recovery leaves no one behind. Now is the time to focus on driving a recovery that is inclusive. While the past year has highlighted the many inequities that have existed in our society, now more than ever we believe in the power of technology to drive more inclusivity and opportunity to underserved populations and communities and begin the post-pandemic recovery. That means working with governments and organisations to ensure the digital tools that will power our future connected workplaces, schools, hospitals, and governments, are reaching those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

The Cisco 2021 Broadband Index shows that while governments and policymakers across Europe have committed to improving connectivity, workers in France, Germany, Italy and Poland are demanding that they also accelerate efforts to bridge the digital divide. Because when we provide citizens with affordable broadband, we provide Europeans with opportunities to learn, work, enjoy better healthcare and connect with each other.

From the  very beginning of the pandemic, Cisco has stepped up to help people and communities in Europe and around the world with funding and technology to keep businesses, governments, schools and healthcare facilities connected. And we continue to bring real solutions forward to help bridge the digital divide.

For example, last week, I was pleased to join our Spanish team for the announcement of the extension of our Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program in Spain. The renewed “Digitaliza” program will extend to 2024 and focus on investments in 5G and WiFi 6, and next-generation networks as well as IoT, AI, and the cloud. The program will present additional opportunities for Cisco and the Spanish government to work together, using our networks and technology to implement projects and efforts that will fuel an inclusive recovery.

CDA builds strategic partnerships between Cisco and select countries through projects that align with national priorities and bring digital solutions to complex societal challenges, such as connectivity. Today, it’s a proven model for success with more than 1,000 projects across 40 countries.

Accelerating digitisation to improve healthcare, education and government services

Healthcare professionals struggled during the pandemic to find new ways to safely exchange and access patient medical records, as well as how to collaborate virtually.

  • At UMC Utrecht, one of the largest university hospitals in the Netherlands, doctors can collaborate across teams and with other regional hospitals thanks to an e-health collaboration platform developed by Cisco and Parsek. The platform allows patients to receive greater care and expertise that was previously being hampered by separate health records and incompatible data systems. Clinicians across three regional medical practices specialising in cancer care can now safely exchange patient documents or high-resolution medical images in real time via secure video.
  • Educators, school systems and universities also struggled to find new ways to provide quality education to all. To tackle this, Cisco partnered with the Polytechnic University of Milan to connect 340 classrooms across distinct campuses in a record time of only 40 days. The classrooms have been equipped with our audio and video solutions, allowing 1,000 participants to connect simultaneously to the same lesson. The Cisco system also enables teachers to use a traditional blackboard but with their PC or tablet, while allowing students to actively participate and interact with each other.
  • Governments themselves had to adapt to a new virtual world. Cisco stepped up to support legislative bodies, regional parliaments and local authorities keep governing especially during the early days of lockdown with the introduction of Legislate for Webex. This platform allows assemblies to meet in plenary or committee sessions, vote and debate with the highest level of privacy and security, while being adaptable to their own procedures and rules. Cisco is proud to collaborate with the city of Geneva (Switzerland) for the first fully virtual parliament in Europe. Cisco also supported the French region of Hauts-de-France move its assembly meetings to Webex earlier in 2020.

Striking the right balance

Green and digital transitions can and should go hand-in-hand to make our recovery a reality for all citizens across Europe. And it is of the utmost importance that investments be meaningful and strike a short and long-term balance if we are to build a better Europe. 2020 was the year that brought a digital presence into every part of our lives.

Collaborative leadership from governments and the tech sector is more important now than ever, and Cisco is committed to be a driver of it. Together, we can chart a path for a European recovery that is truly digital, green and inclusive.

For more on Cisco’s role in Europe’s recovery:



Pastora Valero

Senior Vice President, International Government Affairs

Government Affairs