The growth of the Internet has brought new opportunities and improved communication to many people and businesses. Worldwide IT spending is predicted to increase by 35 percent by 2010, according to research firm IDC (Worldwide Black Book, 2004). As a result, the demand will grow for highly trained individuals to manage and support IT systems. In the United States, year-on-year increases in demand for these workers have been the highest among the IT sector.
However, in many developing countries, access to training on the latest technologies is either limited or unavailable. A lack of access to technology and education about its use is one factor contributing to the gulf between developed and developing economies. This gulf is known to as the "digital divide."
Opportunities to Learn
Cisco's goal is to help close this digital divide by bringing IT training and career opportunities to people and places that have not traditionally had access to them. By helping to train people in disadvantaged countries and communities, Cisco can use its core competencies and expertise to aid their social and economic development, while contributing to the sustained growth of the global economy.
Cisco works with public and private sector partners on programs and initiatives worldwide to help bridge the digital divide. Major programs include:
In July 2004 Cisco started working with the Polish city of Slupsk and surrounding areas to build a broadband network connecting the city's government offices, schools, hospitals, libraries, and other public institutions. The project is part of the broader e-Society initiative, designed to show how affordable and widely available broadband technology can contribute to economic and social development in countries which have recently joined the European Union.
We focused our efforts on two of the poorest rural regions in the area. Cisco donated equipment, money, and expertise as the first step in a long-term program of support. The project receives support from the European Union's e-Europe 2005 Action Plan which aims to develop modern public services and a dynamic business environment based on broadband access.
Case Study: Digital Opportunity Trust
Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) is a Canadian-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) that connects people to the power of information and communication technologies (ICT). DOT provides ICT training and resources, tailored to local needs, to promote social and economic development around the world by encouraging small business and supporting education systems. It brings together a variety of stakeholder groups including government ministries, NGOs, the private sector, and community groups, to build human capital and promote community-led development.
In 2002, Cisco became a founding sponsor of DOT and made a three-year commitment to help launch DOT's Global NetCorps program. Global NetCorps teaches individuals in the developing world a range of skills including leadership, facilitation, communication, teamwork, and technology. DOT's approach is to recruit and train young individuals to provide ICT training for people of all ages and backgrounds in their communities. This creates a sustainable, self-sufficient pattern of growth, what is called the "multiplier effect." For every individual trained, they in turn train 10 more people. Through this approach, Cisco has been able to maximize the impact of its investment.
Global NetCorps is active in Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan, and new projects are currently being developed for Ethiopia and Kenya. By 2008, DOT aims to have Global NetCorps programs running in 15 countries, with 720 new trainers and 17,000 participants.
"Cisco's help has been instrumental in establishing Global NetCorps," said Janet Longmore, DOT President. "Our close working relationship with Cisco has been a powerful collaboration which has inspired fourteen resource partners to join our work, and together we have leveraged one Cisco dollar into at least four."