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Prospects, challenges of digital economy— Cisco GM

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Olakunle Oloruntimehin

Olakunle Oloruntimehin is the General Manager, Nigeria and West Africa for Cisco Systems, an Information Technology and Networking company. In this interview, he speaks on the company’s ongoing support of digitizing African communities and other issues. Excerpts.

When we talk about digital economy what has been your footprint in digitalizing the economy and what are the challenges and prospects?
The digital economy brings with it several opportunities, but also new challenges. Many developing countries cannot adequately respond to the demands of the digital economy. Cisco Systems, as a renowned Technology Equipment Manufacturer remains fully committed to Nigeria and believes in the huge potential that Nigeria offers as a key business and investment destination and continues to find ways to support and collaborate with the nation towards the country’s digitization, job creation and economic growth.

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Some of the challenges we have as a country include inadequate access to the latest technology, sophisticated telecommunications infrastructure, relatively low digital readiness score, low computer literacy and other cultural and socio-economic factors. Cisco prides itself in the programs offered through the Network Academy (NetAcad) for ICT education and career building to help people launch careers, start businesses, and solve global problems.

The Cisco Network Academy (NetAcad), its CSR program which focuses on capacity building, digital job creation and local content development, since inception in 2000 has provided impactful support in the country’s education and socio-economic sectors by partnering with government, industry partners, educational institutions, and non-governmental organizations across the country. The program has had over 190,000 student beneficiaries of ICT education, technical training and career mentorship.

How far has Cisco gone, especially in Nigeria in its several initiatives for talent development, innovations and job creation?
Cisco is committed to supporting Africa’s digitization goals by shaping policies that foster innovation and digital technologies, promoting broadband adoption, and protecting global competitiveness through its Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program. The CDA program will partner with the Nigerian government to invest in its digitization agenda with the objective of improving the economy and citizens’ quality of life. CDA builds strategic partnerships between Cisco and select countries through projects aligned with national priorities. The program also brings digital solutions to challenges in areas such as health, education, transportation, and public works. It boosts economies and improves quality of life, while driving growth for Cisco and the host communities. Every CDA has a cybersecurity track to help defend the county’s infrastructure and economy.

The Cisco Networking Academy, Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) initiative focuses on digital job creation. It was established to provide skills and jobs learning experience for our students. The Talent Bridge under the NetAcad program provides recruiters at Cisco and partner companies to post job opportunities for Cisco Networking Academy students. Talent Bridge empowers Cisco and our Cisco Channel Partners to identify top talents from Networking Academy’s education partners that can fill crucial networking and security jobs. Every year, we organize Talent Connection, a job fair where Cisco partners are invited to interview NetAcad students.

For the past two years, we have organized Hackathon competitions for Nigerian students to develop critical thinking and problem solving thus creating entrepreneurs and technology start-ups. We are partnering with Ogun State government on Ogun TechHUB. Cisco organizes a yearly Global Problem Solver Challenge for entrepreneurs and technology start-ups at the global level, three students from Federal University of Technology, Akure came 3rd Runner Up. TREP LABS (Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria) has created REALDRIP, a low-cost infusion monitor device for simpler and safer blood transfusion and drip treatment. REALDRIP continuously monitors flow rate and automates the process during drip treatment to prevent health complications. Four Innovation centres have been established in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education at the Federal Unity Colleges with plans to create two additional centres.

What are we expecting in 2020, as your company has already integrated hardware and Software into its operations?
In 2020 we will continue to focus on the customer’s perspective, it’s going to be really important for us to help our customers re-imagine their applications. We know how incredibly important that is to them, we are going to help them scale their infrastructure and ensure that they can modernize everything that they are doing. Overall, we want our customers to truly simplify the experience for their clients and to ensure that by leveraging Cisco, they’re more successful. It’s something that we’ve been committed to as a company.

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