Russell (Rusty) Smith is a Senior Director in Cisco’s Digital Impact Office

I grew up in a small town. My mom worked as an assistant for the city administrator. When our phone would ring, I heard my mom responding to the needs of the community—real people were on the other end of the line. She listened. She made people feel included. My mom helped everyone in our town solve problems in ways that I cannot begin to describe. It made a lasting impression on me. That type of servant leadership in the name of inclusion is precisely what we do in Cisco’s Digital Impact Office, the home of Cisco Networking Academy and Country Digital Acceleration.

“What it really comes down to is connecting more people to the digital economy.”

The Digital Impact Office is a manifestation of Cisco’s Purpose, to Power an Inclusive Future for All. Communities spanning the globe benefit from the collaborative works of Country Digital Acceleration and Cisco Networking Academy. The work of the Digital Impact Office makes a substantial contribution to Cisco’s commitment to positively impact one billion people across the globe by FY2025. Digital inclusion is brought to life through the combined power of Cisco Networking Academy and Country Digital Acceleration. We power transformative projects spanning the globe, laying the groundwork for broadband connectivity, innovation for Smart Cities, and beyond. What it really comes down to is connecting more people to the digital economy. Digital inclusion means making investments in infrastructure and skills. The jobs of the future made available to everyone, everywhere. Cisco is uniquely equipped to partner with organizations and communities ready to build a more inclusive future.

Digital Impact is about community

When you think about it, the topic of digital inclusion is an invitation to have a greater conversation about community. For instance, the focus of Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration is not building a thing or selling a product. Rather it’s extending an invitation. We meet people where they are. Listening to real-life stories helps us understand issues individuals face on a daily basis. Quite literally, the work we do helps our partners extend beyond the walls of their organizations. Digital inclusion brings entire communities along the journey. The story of impact is inspiring. One such example is the Autonomous Living Project.

Powered by Cisco technology, the Autonomous Living Project is a solution for anyone who requires lifelong support. The technology has the power to enable an inclusive community for all including people who are aging, have different abilities, and require lifelong care needs. The pilot program operating in Ontario, Canada supports individuals and families where they are, and transforms service delivery. Cisco technology drives, scales, and revolutionizes service delivery to support independent living through smart notifications and smart device integration. This technology is the product of inclusive design. Developed by Cisco Country Digital Acceleration in partnership with a host of other organizations, the Autonomous Living Project currently supports individuals with special needs and their caregivers. Everyone wins when we design with and for inclusion. This is only the beginning.

Connecting people to skills and jobs of the future

There is a palpable sense of excitement, fueled by a focus on full-spectrum digital inclusion. Central to Cisco’s Purpose is a mandate to drive digital acceleration and connect individuals to the jobs of the future. Cisco Networking Academy is a champion of this story of digital impact, positively impacting lives by driving inclusive socio-economic development. Over the course of its more than 25 years, over 20.5 million global learners have taken Cisco Networking Academy courses to gain digital skills. As one of the most long-standing, successful IT skills-to-jobs programs in the world, Cisco Networking Academy is key to forging lasting partnerships in communities. It’s a game-changer in bridging the digital divide and learning in-demand skills. Networking Academy students land family-sustaining jobs and power the digital transformation of their own communities. In fact, globally, 95% of students that have taken Cisco certification aligned courses attribute obtaining a job or education opportunity to Cisco Networking Academy.

Digital inclusion, powered by the work of Cisco Networking Academy and Country Digital Acceleration translates to increased opportunities for individuals spanning the globe. I am inspired reflecting upon how far we have come, and eagerly look ahead to what’s next. In communities where Cisco is a trusted partner, we have the power to unleash human potential, and that inspires us all.


To learn more about the work of the Digital Impact Office, visit 

Cisco Networking Academy and Country Digital Acceleration.


Russell Smith

Sr. Director, Digital Impact Office

People, Policy and Purpose