It’s a very uncertain time across the world right now. Everyone has been shaken by the COVID-19 virus. Many people are working from home for the first time – some alone and some with children underfoot. Some have loved ones who are sick or know people affected by COVID-19. Some are caring for elderly family members or are the sole financial provider in their household. But no matter what the situation, you are not alone. We are all trying to navigate this crisis.
Personally, I am used to traveling all the time. As the head of Cisco in Latin America, I spend much of my time in key countries in the region meeting with employees, customers, partners, and key stakeholders. Now I am working from home.
Working Remotely and Staying Connected
Just like all of you I want to stay connected, so I am very grateful to work for a company that makes secure collaboration technology to keep us communicating. It’s our priority to enable people to work securely from anywhere, anytime, on any device so they can stay connected and continue business operations. Remote working collaboration tools, including video conferencing like Webex, have become a lifeline for businesses and their people to stay connected and productive. With the secure Webex platform, people around the world can continue to take care of their teams while taking care of themselves and their families at home.
Working remotely has become the new normal almost overnight. In the blink of an eye, legions of workers who were once accustomed to meeting in conference rooms are now meeting virtually. Webex registered a record 324 million attendees in March, with usage more than doubling in the Americas. For comparison, Webex meetings had 153 million attendees worldwide in January. Webex saw close to 240,000 online sign-ups in a 24-hour period and in one day alone, Webex handled 4.2 million meetings – more than twice the average on a peak day before the pandemic.
But it’s not just technology companies whose employees are communicating, collaborating, and getting work done remotely. Doctors, teachers, students, governments, universities to grad schools, life-saving healthcare operations, and businesses big and small are learning how to do their jobs when the people they serve are not in the same room with them or even the same geographic area. In areas that fall short on the digital readiness scale, this is even more challenging.
Cisco wants to make this new normal easier for everyone. Remote working collaboration tools have become a lifeline to everyone. All over Latin America, Cisco is helping government, education, financial, and health care organizations stay up and running and connected so they can continue to do their jobs and help their communities.
Increasing Access to Health Care in a Time of Great Need
The need for telemedicine now is greater than ever before, and Cisco is helping to fill this need across Latin America. In Bogota, Colombia, a key doctor at a prominent hospital set up our Webex platform so physicians from across the region could get connected to discuss and learn how to treat patients who come in presenting symptoms of COVID-19. In a single Webex session, this doctor reached over 330 medical professionals from health institutions across South and Central America, helping to share critical information about how to handle patients and contain the spread of the infection.
In Costa Rica, Cisco and their partners, have enabled telemedicine services for local hospitals. Using video end-points and the secure Webex platform, medical professionals can do remote consultations to screen for possible coronavirus cases. The team there is also working to implement a contact center for the public as part of the health response to COVID-19.
And in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the mayor announced a free telemedicine service over Webex that allows people to see a doctor face-to-face and get an initial coronavirus symptom assessment.
Keeping Governments and Businesses Running Smoothly
People may not be able to meet in person, but Cisco technology is helping government leaders at all levels stay connected so they can keep essential government functions running smoothly. Cisco Webex technology powered the G20 summit, where world leaders met to discuss how to cope with the pandemic.
Closer to home, Colombia is implementing Cisco’s collaboration and security solutions to enable government officials to meet via Webex. The Colombian American Chamber of Commerce has promoted a series of business discussions for coping with the pandemic, with up to 708 companies and government organizations participating.
Government officials across Latin America are also using Webex technology to stay in communication while in quarantine.
Seventeen Mexican government agencies have adopted Webex to continue their operations virtually. Cisco supported the Office of President López Obrador by re-launching the TelePresence network that Cisco donated during the H1N1 crisis 11 years ago. Now, in this new time of crisis, the president and his government can again remain operational and serve their citizens.
In Argentina, President Alberto Fernandez and key members of his cabinet are using TelePresence and Webex to hold cabinet meetings and meet with governors and mayors to discuss keeping citizens safe during this health crisis.
In Ecuador, President Lenín Moreno and his staff continue to use Webex to meet and communicate regarding important government decisions regarding the pandemic.
In Brazil, Minister Dias Toffoli, President of the Supreme Court of Brazil, held a public session of the National Council of Justice (CNJ) with Webex. He plans to restore processes in all the courts in Brazil via Webex, helping to guarantee the public safety of Brazilians.
Private companies need to stay connected as well. A Brazilian service provider installed a Cisco VPN solution to maintain the company’s operations during the mandatory quarantine, ensuring real-time communication between operational teams and their managers and executives, allowing many of their more than 2,000 employees to work safely from home. In Argentina, the Cisco team helped another service provider activate 25,000 Webex licenses in just a few days, helping to keep everyone connected in a time of need.
The Learning Doesn’t Have to Stop
As school closures impact students and teachers, it is important for students to have access to quality educational content while they learn at home. Cisco Networking Academy is offering free self-enroll courses for students to study safely where they live, and for adults who want to acquire additional professional skills. You can learn more about these remote courses on the Learning Never Stops website in (English), (Spanish) and (Portuguese).
In order to empower teachers in Peru to manage their own learning platforms, the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with Cisco Networking Academy and Junior Achievement, just launched a virtual Digital Skills for ALL Program. This is a free, virtual, and self-training program that seeks to improve the use of digital resources and entrepreneurship methodologies to prepare students and instructors for a virtual educational learning environment. The course leverages Webex and Networking Academy programs to ensure the learning never stops. Over 10,000 instructors registered on the first day the program opened and many more are expected to join.
Latin America’s youth is its greatest competitive asset. We want to help protect it. So, while the world bands together to stop the spread of COVID-19, Cisco will do everything it can to keep teachers and students connected virtually and securely. To respond to this need, IBM and Cisco have announced a regional partnership to support continuous learning for public and private school students in Latin America. Volunteers from IBM, who also telework from their homes using Cisco Webex, will provide tutoring for teachers so they can make the most of the platform. The program is now available in ten Latin American countries.
Finally, staying true to our strong culture of giving back, Cisco has committed $225 million globally to support the global and local response to COVID-19.
These are just a few examples of how we are working together across Latin America to keep citizens connected. And there will be many more positive stories to tell over the coming days, weeks and months.
Yes, these are challenging times for all of us. But I am very proud of the work Cisco and my teams are doing to bring people together despite the physical and social distancing in place. We are using our technology to build a bridge to a better place.