The Least-Developed Countries (LDCs) Initiative was launched in 2000 in an effort to help bridge the digital divide between developed and least-developed countries. The initiative provides IT training opportunities specifically for students in LDCs as an extension of the Cisco Networking Academy Program. It is operated in partnership with the United Nations Development Program, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Telecommunication Union, and the United Nations Volunteers.

By the end of FY2005, 196 academies had been established in 51 countries. More than 10,000 continuing students were currently participating in the Cisco associate-level CCNA certification curriculum. To date, more than 5,000 students have graduated from the CCNA 4 curriculum in the LDCs.

The program in Africa set a goal of 30 percent female students to encourage women to participate in technology-based professions. Julianne Sansa Otim, an instructor in Uganda, said: "My greatest joy is that I am continuously passing these skills on to other professionals and helping build capacity in Uganda, East Africa, and the entire African region and at the same time acting as a role model to many females who previously thought that technology-based professions were for men."

Cisco is working with USAID's Global Development Alliance to go beyond the LDCs Initiative. For example, the Women in Technology (WIT) Cisco Networking Academy Scholarship Program was initiated with a $300,000 grant from USAID in 2004. This program has already granted 375 scholarships to students at Cisco academies in Bangladesh, Mongolia, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and 180 scholarships to women in Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.

Toolkits are being developed for academies on the themes of sustainability, gender, and workforce development. These toolkits were piloted in Uganda in 2004 and are now being improved before they are launched in late 2005.

Cisco Brings IT Skills to Kabul

Cisco Brings IT Skills to Kabul: Afghan Academy Helping Developing Countries