The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for digital transformation across every sector. Over the past several months we’ve seen major disruption to many industries and organizations at a pace like never before. Hospitals, schools, businesses, government, organizations, and communities now depend on the Internet in order to function at the most basic level.
Now, more than ever, technology is an essential part of our lives. The “new normal” has become just normal. We have grown used to meeting co-workers and customers online and to seeing friends and relatives through video calls instead of in-person dinners at grandma’s house or birthday parties with friends. Without the usual activities, children are having to spend more and more time in front of screens, in many cases so that parents can get some work done. Many of us are not seeing our doctors face to face. And even our government leaders now communicate virtually.
The terms ‘digitization, the digital economy, and living in a new digital era’ are not new. We have been talking about digital transformation for some time. But the acceleration of this transformation – due to the coronavirus pandemic – could not have been predicted.
The pandemic is forcing all of us to appreciate how much we rely on 21st-century technologies—artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), social media, digital learning platforms, augmented and virtual reality, drones, 3D printing and so much more—to keep us healthy and to transform economies.
Cisco is committed to supporting customers, partners and communities through this unprecedented time. Our strategy is to ensure businesses and organizations, who are keeping the world moving and rebuilding business and the economy, have what they need to stay productive, connected and secure. Part of that mission is to invest and support digital acceleration, as well as closing the digital divide, across Latin America, and globally, through our Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program.
Through its CDA Program, Cisco creates a continuum of value by leveraging high-trust relationships with government leaders to help unlock the economic and social benefits of digitization by co-developing and funding technology solutions. Cisco has CDA programs in 37 countries around the world and has over 900 active or completed projects since its inception in 2015.
Brazil recently joined Mexico in formally launching a strategic investment / CDA initiative with Cisco called Brasil Digital e Inclusivo. Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in May that will continue to boost skills development and digital transformation as well as reinforce Brazil’s economic recovery in the post-pandemic era. Part of the agenda includes a CyberEducation program through the Cisco Networking Academy. This initiative will help thousands of young people across Brazil learn new skills to meet the growing demand for professionals in cybersecurity, both in the public and private sectors, and in the Information Communications Technology (ICT) field.
In another area of Brazil’s CDA, Cisco Webex is helping to keep the justice system functioning during the COVID-19 health crisis. In April, Minister Dias Toffoli, President of the Supreme Court of Brazil, held a public session of the National Council of Justice (CNJ) with Webex. The same month, the Brazil Supreme Court held a historic virtual hearing with all its 11 judges. Plans are underway to restore processes in all the courts in Brazil virtually, helping to guarantee public safety and security.
Launched in 2016, Mexico’s CDA is accelerating at a good pace. In January, Cisco Mexico and Jalisco, recognized as one of the main digital centers of Mexico, signed a new MoU to bring digital advancements to the people of this state.
With support from Cisco technology, organizations in different sectors and countries in Latin America are advancing digital acceleration and figuring out new ways to teach our students, treat our sick, and connect the government officials who are making decisions that affect citizen well-being and quality of life.
A few months ago, Argentina´s National Congress held its first ever virtual meeting over Cisco secure Webex and has been delivering virtual sessions since then. And in Colombia, President Ivan Duque used Webex technology to talk with governors and mayors about COVID-19 related issues. The same is true with government authorities in Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Costa Rica, and more.
Digital technology has also helped the healthcare industry safely adapt to the pandemic. When the healthcare infrastructure in Brazil became overwhelmed, Cisco provided video devices, allowing patients, doctors and families to connect from hospitals across the country, including field hospitals like one in the state of Piaui, enabling patients to communicate with their families without risking their health. Chile’s CDA program is supporting a joint initiative with the Universidad del Desarrollo (UDD) and Telefonica that tracks citizen mobility through telecommunications data to control the spread of COVID-19. And telemedicine initiatives that support telehealth are advancing across Latin America with the use of Cisco technology.
Schools all over the world have had to make tough decisions about how to re-open. Technology has given them options. In Costa Rica, the Ministry of Public Education (MEP) and Fundacion Omar Dengo (FOD) are working to ensure the national technical education program continues via the secure Cisco Webex platform. More than 650 MEP instructors have been trained remotely since April. The goal is to train 1,000 instructors to ensure all students will be able to safely attend school through virtual classes.
For digital acceleration to be successful, it must happen in a secure environment. Without a strong foundation in cybersecurity, the risk of making all these new connections expands exponentially, and a much larger number of people and organizations are made vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
I have highlighted the IT skills gap in Latin America in previous blog posts, as well as the great need for professionals with cybersecurity skills. Cisco is investing in this important aspect of digital acceleration as well. The Cisco Networking Academy, which teaches these critical skills, recently signed an agreement with the Organization of American States (OAS) to help 100,000 individuals learn basic cybersecurity skills.
Together, we can learn to thrive in this new digital world and ease the pain of the economic recovery period that will follow this pandemic. Cisco continues to invest in and support a better quality of life for Latin Americans through technology and I am proud to lead the team that is helping to make it happen.