In the last few months the world has ‘gone digital’ quicker than we would ever previously have foreseen. More than 100 countries across the world have adopted plans to restrict movement where possible, shifting significant volumes of work and services into the digital world.

During this time, Internet networks have increased their traffic by 20-40%. 1.5 billion students in 188 countries (70%) have now moved to remote education. And in the corporate segment, three out of four companies that Cisco has consulted with have accelerated their digitalization plans. Digitization strategies that may previously have ben planned to go live in one-to-three years are now shifting their timeframes to months, or even weeks.

Although this ‘shift to digital’ has been carried out extremely well – not only in the corporate sector, but also in health, education, and public services – we should examine the lessons it has to teach us. It is important that we ensure our digital infrastructure is as robust as possible in order to ensure we can once again accommodate the unforeseen in future.

Cisco’s commitment

Cisco’s response to the crisis early in 2019 came immediately. Since the beginning of March, we have been offering free licenses of our Cisco Webex videoconferencing solution to companies, public sector organisations, and ordinary people in Spain. We’ve done something similar with our solutions for data centers and cyber security as well. Cisco has already committed $300 million to mitigate the effects of the pandemic globally with free technology and cash donations. And in the next few months, we will expand this figure to more than $500 million.

In Spain, our Webex for Education initiative has reached 75% of the political sub-areas known as ‘Spanish autonomous communities’, (including Madrid, Valencia, Andalusia, Galicia and the Canary Islands). And in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, Telefónica and IBM, we have also facilitated remote learning for students that have fewer resources at their beck and call.

Cisco has also participated in the rapid implementation of networking technology at field hospitals such as Madrid’s IFEMA and Lleida’s. And our volunteers have donated videoconferencing devices to retirement homes and hospitals all over Spain to keep patients and families connected. My own personal videoconference equipment is now in a nursing home in Sitges, Barcelona.

Powering an ‘Inclusive Future’

Half of the world’s population has benefitted from remote access to education, health care and work – while the other half has not. In fact, nearly 3.7 billion people are still not connected to the Internet.

Connectivity is a human right, it should be our duty to help deliver it. And we should not forget that improved connectivity also has a direct effect on economic growth. Bringing the Internet to those who are currently offline would add $6.7 trillion to the global economy and would lift another half billion people out of poverty.

In Spain, we cannot forget the challenges we faced from an ‘empty Spain’ (as it was called here). But neither can we forget the unemployed and those at risk of digital social exclusion.

Digitization will take us forward

Cisco has been building Internet networks for nearly 35 years. In fact, 80% of Internet traffic goes through Cisco equipment. In Spain, thanks to the efforts and investment made by Service Providers, companies such as Cisco, and our partners, we live – effectively – in a digital country. There are about 36 million Internet users (75% of the population) and +200 million connected devices, almost 5 per capita.

But we can do more. Technology presents some very clear solutions for the current situation, as well as the means to respond to some big challenges:

  • The need to automate networks to deal with cyber attacks .
  • The need to digitize critical infrastructure such as water, electricity, and gas.
  • The need to transform tourism and other vertical industries by adopting AI and Virtual/Augmented Reality technologies over 5G/Wi-Fi 6 networks.
  • The need to provide digital education to our young people, and to provide for the re-education of workers.

Actually, these are just the main pillars of ‘Digitaliza’, Cisco’s strategy to accelerate the digitization of Spain in close collaboration with our partners, governments and communities. The scheme also aims to provide more general support for young people (who, in Spain, face an unemployment rate close to 50%), and also immigrants, for whom digitization provides a unique opportunity to integrate into society.

Our not-for-profit Cisco NetAcad education program has already trained 300,000 students in state-of-the art digital technologies. Just in the last two years we have trained 100,000 students. Through our Digitaliza program and in collaboration with different partners, we’ll train even more to reduce the skills gap in ITC/STEM.

We believe in possibilities

At Cisco, we believe in possibilities. It is possible to turn the crisis into an opportunity. It is possible to accelerate the digitalization of companies, countries and communities. And it is possible to achieve an Inclusive Future for all.