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Cisco, ITU launch digital transformation initiative

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Doreen Bogdan-Martin (right), Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, and Rik Bleeker (left), CSR Country Engagement Manager Benelux at Cisco Systems during the initiative's launch at ITU Telecom World 2019 in Budapest, Hungary
Doreen Bogdan-Martin (right), Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, and Rik Bleeker (left), CSR Country Engagement Manager Benelux at Cisco Systems during the initiative’s launch at ITU Telecom World 2019 in Budapest, Hungary

On 12 September 2019 Cisco and ITU launched the Digital Transformation Centres Initiative to equip people with the skills they will need to participate in the current digital society and economy. The initiative was launched at ITU Telecom, and ITU and Cisco will work with a network of institutions to run digital skills training programmes in specific tech areas.

ITU has said that providing digital skills training is vital to bridging the digital divide. They say that digital skills are needed at all levels, which are listed below:

  1. The Basic Level: To help people connect and benefit from Internet services and applications
  2. The Intermediate Level: To help students and job seekers get the necessary skills required by the digital economy
  3. The Advanced Level: To increase the pool of ICT experts and meet the demands of the industry

The initiative, according to ITU, is targetted at people who need basic digital skills to use digital tools and access e-services and those who seek to improve their basic and intermediate skills. The initiative is also aimed at entrepreneurs who want to develop their businesses. It will assist policy-makers in the formulation and implementation of programmes and policies that are related to digital skills, with the over-arching objective of enabling a successful national digital transformation process. ITU has stated that the initiative will rely on a multistakeholder partnership in order to ensure its success.

“We are proud to partner with Cisco to enhance digital literacy. We call on governments, the private sector, development agencies, local communities and other stakeholders to help us advance this initiative. Join us to boost digital skills to facilitate the digital transformation journey and accelerate the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General. The Digital Transformation Centres Initiative will build on the existing collaboration between the two organizations.

“We are excited to partner with ITU on the Digital Transformation Centre Initiative which will leverage the Cisco Networking Academy to prepare individuals with skills in technology as well as in entrepreneurial areas where project-based learning and design thinking are critical. Cisco’s objective is to help countries transform digitally and accelerate economic growth, and the collaboration between Cisco and ITU will be key to providing the needed human capital to support that transformation,” says Laura Quintana, Vice President and General Manager of Cisco Networking Academy.

To start the initiative, Cisco and ITU will identify 10 Digital Transformation Centres to participate in the first phase that is planned to run for 18 months, starting in January 2020. These centres will be located in the Asia-Pacific, Americas and Africa regions. “Today half the world is online, but raw connectivity alone will not solve development challenges. Research shows that lack of digital knowledge and skills has emerged as a major barrier to Internet uptake, digital inclusion and digital transformation, especially in developing countries. The Digital Transformation Centers Initiative is designed to strengthen the effectiveness of current activities in the field of capacity development by providing training programmes to meet and address local needs, and address technology trends, developments and gaps. It is also a step forward to help our [membership] implement their regional initiatives in this field,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.

The Digital Transformation Centers Initiative will complement the ILO-ITU Digital Skills for Jobs Campaign which is part of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth. The initiative will directly contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and will also complement the existing work of the ITU Centres of Excellence network that provides training to ICT professionals, as well as the existing ITU efforts in enabling digital transformation and national and regional levels.

Edited by Kojo Essah

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