Technology and innovation create opportunities, and not just for businesses and governments, but for the world.

Today we are experiencing a digital revolution with the power to accelerate global problem solving, enabling people and societies to thrive.

We are bringing that philosophy to life today, by announcing our commitment to expand the Cisco Networking Academy for diverse abilities.  Over the past decade, more than 3,000 students with disabilities have benefited from Networking Academy courses, delivered in partnership with organizations helping students with vision, hearing, and selected physical disabilities. We now commit to accelerating the impact of this program and empowering 10,000 students with disabilities within five years, in countries such as Italy, France, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

We live in a world where we can empower anyone to be a global problem solver — to innovate as a technologist, think as an entrepreneur, and act as a social change agent – and more effectively address critical issues like hunger, poverty, climate change, and gender inequality.

It is our job as business leaders to ensure that this digital revolution is inclusive. When the Industrial Revolution transformed manufacturing, transportation, and communication in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, only a select few with enough resources could take advantage of the opportunities for growth and prosperity.

But today, technology – and Internet connectivity in particular – is an equalizer. Connectivity enables people to access education, jobs, financial services, and healthcare. It gives anyone the ability to build the skills and resources needed to thrive, and the potential to become a global problem solver.

Inclusion for People with Disabilities

One group at risk of being left behind in the digital revolution, however, is people with disabilities, including physical, vision, and hearing impairments.

An estimated 15% of the world’s population, more than 1 billion people, lives with some form of disability. People with disabilities have poorer health outcomes, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.

For example, unemployment among people with disabilities is as high as 80 percent in some countries. Many people with disabilities who are employed work in part-time positions or nontraditional, low-paying jobs with poor job security. In India, for instance, 87 percent of people with disabilities who work do so in the informal sector.

We believe technology – and the acquisition of digital skills in particular – can level the playing field for people with disabilities. For example, the European Commission reports that in the near future, 90 percent of jobs will require some level of digital skills. And in 10 Latin American countries, research from IDC predicts a shortage of nearly 450,000 networking technology professionals by 2019.

Helping people with disabilities develop the skills needed to fill these jobs can create new opportunities for them while enabling businesses to meet their staffing needs.

Digital Skills Foster Inclusion and Create Opportunity

We have been fostering inclusiveness and creating opportunity for nearly 20 years through the Cisco Networking Academy program – an IT and career skills building program that has helped more than 6.7 million students in 170 countries prepare for IT careers.

In particular, we have developed programs for people with vision, hearing, and physical disabilities though partnerships with educational institutions and non-governmental organizations in several countries around the world.

For Networking Academy, accessibility means providing access to our curricula for people with disabilities, either by design or through compatible use with assistive technology.

In Kenya, for example, we have offered Networking Academy courses to nearly 400 people with hearing impairments since 2012 through partnerships with Deaf Aid and Karen Technical Training Institute for the Deaf. Sixty-five percent of participants are employed or conducting internships, and the hiring managers often report that these workers are loyal, conscientious, and focused.

One of these people is Wilson Nyabera, who grew up in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum, with three siblings. Wilson earned his Cisco CCNA certification after taking Cisco Networking Academy courses and now works as a network engineer for Copy Cat, an office automation and information technology company. Since entering the IT workforce, he has moved to Uthiru, a better part of Nairobi and enrolled at St. Paul’s University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business and information technology. With his salary, he is able to pay his mother’s rent and pay his younger sister’s school fees.

Over the past decade, more than 3,000 students with disabilities have benefited from Networking Academy courses. Now, we are making a commitment to more than triple that number to reach an additional 10,000 people with disabilities within five years.

We believe that helping people with disabilities develop technical skills is a win-win. It enables them to get jobs, build careers, gain personal independence, and overcome cultural stereotypes. And, it can also build the pipeline of IT talent that organizations need to take advantage of the digital revolution and accelerate global problem solving.

Cisco Networking Academy is one way we are harnessing the power of the digital revolution to accelerate global problem solving, enabling people and societies to thrive in the digital economy. Our goal is to positively impact 1 billion people by 2025. Stay updated on our progress: subscribe to receive our email updates


Tae Yoo

No Longer with Cisco