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Digital inclusion

By building an inclusive digital society, countries can connect their populations, grow gross domestic product (GDP), create jobs, and develop a sustainable innovation ecosystem.

Digitization has emerged as a key driver for prosperity. However, countries, companies, and individuals often struggle to successfully leverage the potential of technology. How can forward-thinking world leaders implement national digitization strategies? How can businesses reap the benefits of technology? How can citizens be actively included in the digital revolution?

Cisco launched our Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program in 2015 to answer these questions. We see digitization at the national level as an opportunity to improve economies, governments, and people’s lives. CDA enables countries to realize the value of digitization faster. By building an inclusive digital society, countries can grow GDP, create jobs, and develop a sustainable innovation ecosystem.

To date, CDA has over 1300 active or completed projects in 50 countries. For example:

  • In India, we partnered with Kerala State IT Mission to bring the benefits of digital technology and data science to farmers in Kerala. We created an Agri-Digital Infrastructure for rice paddies and shrimp farms and set up Village Knowledge Centers (VKCs) in villages across Dharmadam and Taliparamba to provide farmers with real-time information on the status of crops in their village, current crop pricing, and expert farming advice. VKCs allow farmers to grow and manage their crops more intelligently and sustainably in response to market demand and current growing conditions.
  • Additionally, we partnered with the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT) Bombay and Kirat Communications to connect 20 villages in the Palghar district of Maharashtra. With Internet connectivity, the local girls’ school can access online educational resources. A woman’s handicraft cooperative of Warli artists can now sell their products online and access a global market. One of our local NGO partners, Tata Trusts, has been able to provide village residents with access to government services via an app, online educational content, and information ranging from health advice to agricultural market rates.
  • In Canada, we partnered with the city of Toronto to provide Internet access to low-income communities. When COVID-19 arrived in Toronto, the disparity between those who had access to the Internet and those who did not became abundantly clear. Spaces that provided free Internet access, like libraries and schools, closed, and low-income communities were disproportionately isolated due to lack of access to a reliable Internet connection. CDA and Cisco’s Toronto Innovation Center deployed a “Digital Canopy” by partnering with the city of Toronto and a variety of partners (BAI Canada, Beanfield Metroconnect, Bell Canada, Century Concrete Products, OnX Canada, Southwinds Engineering, and Toronto Mesh). Digital Canopy now provides free Wi-Fi access to 2000 low-income residents in Toronto. The solution is currently being expanded to 25 additional locations to provide free Wi-Fi access to 13,000 residents.
  • In the United Kingdom, we are working with Strathclyde University to lead 5G RuralFirst, a co-⁠innovation project partly funded by the U.K. government. We established 5G test beds in the remote Orkney Islands and the farmlands of Shropshire and Somerset to demonstrate the game-changing potential of 5G technologies for rural businesses and communities. By bringing connectivity to rural communities, we are enabling smart farming and Internet of Things (IoT) use cases for industries in rural areas. The consortium has deployed 5G technology in some of the most remote and challenging environments of the United Kingdom to build the business case for rural 5G deployment and demonstrate how world-class connectivity could be delivered across the country.
  • Additionally, in the United Kingdom, we are leading the E-Flex consortium, an innovation project co-funded by UK Innovate, to prove the value of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. V2G allows unused energy in electric car batteries to be taken back into the electricity grid. The E-Flex consortium signed up nearly 200 vehicles from a variety of organizations to trial V2G. One organization, the Royal Borough of Greenwich, avoided over 1500 kg of CO2 over a nine-month period, thanks to five V2G-capable vehicles. The vehicles were charged during off-peak grid times when more renewable energy sources were available, with energy discharged to the grid during peak times to reduce the demand on carbon-intensive energy sources. The level of carbon avoidance is equivalent to the amount of CO2 removed by 68 adult trees in one year.
  • In Brazil, we are partnering with BNDES (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social) to support the BNDES Education Connected Initiative, which aims to use technology as a pedagogical tool in public schools. We designed, implemented, and validated the connectivity and security infrastructure needed to enable the transformation of Brazil’s schools and pedagogical practices. We’ve connected 87 schools in the northeast region of Brazil.
  • The Auvergne Rhone Alpes region in France has the country’s highest concentration of mid-size industrial enterprises. But industrial jobs in the region have decreased dramatically over the last 20 years. Cisco joined a consortium to provide expertise in connectivity and cybersecurity to industrial businesses in the region, with the goal of helping these businesses digitally transform and create local jobs.
  • In the Netherlands, we are working with the Port of Rotterdam and IBM to prepare the port for autonomous shipping by 2030.
  • In Ireland, we are supporting the establishment of the Future Mobility Campus Ireland to create a testbed for autonomous vehicles.
  • In the United States, we worked with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to transform their 1970s headquarters into a smarter, more sustainable building powered by solar.

The CDA program fosters thriving, inclusive economies that can deliver the benefits of digitization to all.