Various initiatives and programmes to positively impact 50 million beneficiaries in India by 2025 were announced at the Cisco India Summit 2018. This goal is aligned with Cisco’s global vision of impacting 1 billion lives worldwide by 2025 through digital solutions. The company is focusing on information and communication technology (ICT) and public-private partnerships in its CSR work, and will leverage its strength in connecting people and things to the internet.

As part of its efforts, the company, in partnership with NASSCOM Foundation,  is setting up a network of ‘Cisco thingQbator’ IoT (Internet of Things) makerspaces or innovation labs in five academic institutions in India for digital skills development and entrepreneurship enablement among students. The makerspaces will help students use technology to come up with digital solutions to local problems. The five academic institutions are Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, (IIITMK), Kerala, IIT-BHU Varanasi, Amrita University Coimbatore, Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women- Delhi, and Trident Academy of Technology Bhubaneswar.

Cisco will support N/Core, an incubator for social sector startups, to launch N/Core tech that will focus on incubating early-stage nonprofits using digital technology to solve some of India’s most urgent social challenges in the areas of critical human needs, education and economic empowerment. Up to 20 organisations will be supported during the first year in two cohorts, with each startup receiving an innovation grant of Rs 10 lakh. The selected startups will also have access to a set of mentors and technology experts from Cisco along with N/Core partners.

Skills development and building workforce capacity 
Another project being taken up is the scaling up of the Cisco Networking Academy programme to create a pool of skilled technology professionals. The programme provides schools, colleges, universities and other non-profit educational institutions Cisco-developed curriculum in computer networking, security and IoT that can be integrated with the institution’s own curriculum. Cisco also supports public sector organisations like the Telangana Academy for Skills and Knowledge and the ICT Academy of Kerala in providing training on networking and cybersecurity skills, aimed at improving employability of engineering graduates. By 2020, the company hopes to create a pipeline of 250,000 skilled students in India and a marketplace for high-value technology-based careers. Cisco claims that 155,000 students have already picked up essentials skills from over 306 academies in the country.

Cisco has launched a Centre of Excellence (CoE) for IoT at RV College of Engineering, Bengaluru, to impart digital skills and training. On completion of the course, students and working professionals receive credential certificates jointly given by RVCE and Cisco. In the last one year, 1,000 students have benefitted from this CoE although it isn’t clear what ‘benefit’ means in this context (jobs/ skills training).

‘Step Up for India – Spoken English Program’ is in its fourth year and has helped over 300-plus students from three government schools in Bengaluru. It delivers structured spoken English classes to students in grades 4 and 5. These structured interventions are also executed in the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning. For example, the project ‘Smiles through Science’ aims at providing an experiential learning platform for students on the basics of robotics through year-long programmes conducted by Cisco volunteers. Last year, 120-plus students from Parikrma Humanity Foundation enrolled in this programme.

Environmental sustainability 
The company has attempted to demonstrate its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adopting renewable energy by signing two solar power purchase agreements (PPAs) that will collectively deliver 85,000 megawatt-hours of clean, renewable electricity every year to the local electric grid near its Bengaluru campus, and will also provide nearly 40 per cent of electricity for the same campus. It has also installed one megawatt of solar panels across all of its rooftops at the Bengaluru campus which, along with the two new solar PPAs, will reduce Cisco’s Scope 2 GHG emissions at this campus by over 70,000 metric tonnes per year, equivalent to taking 15,000 cars off roads or planting 1.8 million trees.

However, CB’s questions on impact assessment, details on its current skilling programme, sustainability achievements, etc., did not receive any response from the company.

In a press release shared with CB, VC Gopalratnam, trustee, Cisco Foundation, and senior vice president, IT, said, ‘According to a Cisco research, by 2030 there will be more than 500 billion devices connected to the Internet. This will have a profound effect on not just businesses but our everyday lives too. In order to make the most of the plethora of opportunities that lie ahead of us, we will need to harness the power of technology to create an inclusive digital economy. With our philanthropic and CSR efforts, we are committed to positively impact 50 million beneficiaries in India in the next seven years. We work with some of the most forward-thinking partners, not-for-profit organisations, collaborative governments and scores of passionate employees to really make a difference to the world that we inhabit.’