Today I am more optimistic than ever about the future of my home state of Michigan, where I have spent my entire career including the past 21 years at Cisco. Michigan has made great strides to overcome setbacks faced during the Great Recession, and the economy is coming back in a big way, thanks in large part to the state’s push to accelerate digital innovation and strengthen its workforce. This year statewide unemployment hit its lowest rate in 17 years[1], and there has been a 48% increase in active venture-backed startups over the past five years.[2]

So when it was time to bring one of Cisco’s most important global programs to the United States, there was only one place to start – right here in Michigan. To date, Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program has launched in 16 countries around the world, helping them grow GDP, streamline government services, attract new investment and increase innovation capabilities. Now we’re bringing this model to the United States, starting at the state level. I am pleased to announce that Michigan will be the first state to join the State Digital Acceleration (SDA) program, a 3-year targeted collaboration program to advance the state’s digital agenda.

Michigan is fortunate to have forward-looking leaders like Governor Rick Snyder, who understands the role of technology in Michigan’s continued economic transformation. The program will help advance his following digital priorities:

The Mobility State: Connected Roadways

Driving as we know it today could be obsolete in the not too distant future: it is estimated that there will be 21 million self-driving cars on the world’s roads by 2035.[3] Given Michigan’s automotive heritage, it’s only natural that we’re ahead of the curve in connected mobility. Michigan ranks No. 1 in the nation for connected and automated vehicle projects,[4] and has committed to connecting more than 350 miles of connected roadways by 2019.[5]

Building on this state’s leadership in automated vehicles and connected infrastructure, Cisco will explore a partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to pilot Cisco Connected Roadways throughout the state to enhance passenger and roadside worker safety. The technology captures real-time data about traffic flows, environmental conditions, road conditions and more, which will enable the automation of critical safety decisions like reducing speed limits on variable message signs. These integrated technologies will be key to moving Michigan toward its goal of zero highway deaths.

Innovative Digital Economy: Digital Manufacturing and Supply Chain

Michigan has a long history of manufacturing innovation, which continues to fuel its economic success. Today, we lead the nation in the development of factory automation technology, which spans some of the biggest companies in the world to nimble innovators in every corner of the state. The manufacturing sector employs over half a million workers statewide, nearly one out of every six private sector jobs.[6]

However, innovation is a hands-on exercise. Through SDA, Cisco is proud to drive this leadership in advanced manufacturing through collaborations with manufacturers and research institutions throughout the state. This includes a partnership with Wayne State University to help develop its Smart/Digital Manufacturing Center in Detroit, a 25,000-square-foot innovation and validation hub focused on advancing innovation in manufacturing, specifically in automation and robotics. SDA will also strengthen Cisco’s close relationship with Michigan State University on upcoming projects.

Workforce of the Future: Digital Training and Education

Nothing is more important to Michigan’s digital future than having a workforce that is prepared to participate. Yet many jobs in the state remain unfilled because of a shortage of skilled workers.

Cisco is committed to addressing the state’s talent gap through its Networking Academy, our IT skills and career building program for learning institutions and individuals worldwide. The Networking Academy is now in its 20th year of operation in Michigan, to date training 30,000 Michiganders across 65 different academies. Education and Networking Academy is the cornerstone of SDA, and we plan to more than double the enrollment in the state from 3,000 students today to 8,000 students by 2020.

Citizen-Centric Government

The way government interacts with citizens can dramatically improve quality of life and open new opportunities for citizens. Michigan is at the forefront of the smart government movement to better deliver effective and efficient services. Michigan was one of the first states to centralize IT functions into a single department and is recognized as a national leader in development of cybersecurity strategies. It is also making government services increasingly accessible to citizens, even creating one of the first-in-the-nation mobile applications called MiPage to unify services and information for residents in a single location.

To advance this goal of a fully citizen-centric government, Cisco will partner with the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget (DTMB) to improve services delivered to citizens and state agencies. This includes collaboration around a converged network platform for innovation in the future in services, security, collaboration, cloud and more.

Smart and Thriving Communities

It’s been almost 20 years since Michigan was on pace to surpass 10 million residents. Governor Snyder has set out to reverse this trend, announcing an ambitious goal earlier this year to bring Michigan’s population back to 10 million people by 2020. So far, the state is on track to meet this target: Michigan’s population is growing again due to the state’s continued economic turnaround.

Creating smart and thriving communities will be critical to attracting people to come live, work and invest in Michigan, in rural and urban areas alike. Cisco’s SDA program will prioritize smart solutions to making Michigan a safer and more attractive place to live. As a global leader in Smart and Connected Community solutions, we look forward to working with Michigan communities to continue this positive momentum.

Through this incredible program, I believe Michigan is well positioned to be America’s next great tech hub. As a native Michigander, I consider it a great privilege to play a role in helping make that a reality.

[1] http://www.michigan.gov/snyder/0,4668,7-277-80388_80397-426750–,00.html

[2] http://michiganvca.org/research/research-report/

[3] https://www.ihs.com/country-industry-forecasting.html?ID=10659115737

[4] https://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/2017/06/08/how-michigan-is-leading-the-mobility-race/

[5] http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/2016/07/13/mich-calif-race-self-driving-car-infrastructure/87063728/

[6] http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdcd/WDA_ManufacturingFINAL_opt_410543_7.pdf



Alison Gleeson

Senior Vice President, Americas

Worldwide Sales