• United States
by Tom S. Noda

Cisco, U.N. to address Philippine’s IT gap

Apr 18, 20065 mins
Cisco SystemsData CenterIT Leadership

Cisco and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) are looking to partner with other IT organizations to fulfill their mission of addressing the “digital divide” in the Philippines.

“We’ll be looking for more partnerships and get projects that are socially relevant to be able to bring IT education and bridge the digital divide in the country,” said Eric Sulit, marketing and channels manager of Cisco Systems Philippines.

Speaking at the IT exhibit “Emerging Technologies for Philippines 2020” sponsored by De La Salle University?s College of Computer Studies last April, Sulit reported that Cisco and the UNDP have brought their global collaboration on Internet education to the Philippines by deploying United Nations Volunteers (UNV) in Luzon and Mindanao to widen the availability of the Cisco Networking Academy Program (CNAP) in the country.

Currently, there are UNVs working in other Asian countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam, he said.

According to Sulit, the CNAP program is one of the most successful educational programs in the world, teaching students how to create and manage networks as well as Internet technology skills. The program is a nonprofit initiative that now caters to 1.6 million students worldwide consisting of 10,000 families and 13,000 instructors. The program is applied to 42 high schools in the Philippines today.

Since Cisco and the UNDP joined hands in 2001, it has been their objective to try to reach out to the less fortunate communities to deliver computer courses that Cisco offers. These are basic courses such as “IT Essentials,” which teaches students how to set up a computer, install the connections, among others.

Sulit said Cisco and UNV, with the help of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), provide IT education in the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao such as the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and others.

One of the groups? latest accomplishments in Mindanao was the graduation last November 2005 of eight school instructors from the ARMM and other conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. They successfully completed the CNAP’s “IT Essentials” course. The graduate instructors will soon train other teachers who will bring the IT curriculum to the students.

Aside from establishing partnerships, “gender initiative” is also one of the main plans of Cisco and the UNV. “This is to give women equal access to IT education and opportunity,” Sulit said.

In implementing the programs, Sulit said the organizations worked as a team, with the USAID providing computers and Internet connection; Cisco in providing the curriculum content; its partner De La Salle University in giving instructor training; while the UNV provides the manpower to coordinate all the relationships possible.

Some of the activities of the group also include maintaining the “sustainability” for the academies of its IT education and workforce development programs.

Sulit said schools are taught revenue-generating measures using their donated IT facilities to sustain their IT courses. One of the basic ways taught was to make use of the facilities as Internet cafes.

On workforce development, the groups help the students get jobs by launching job fairs, networking skills competitions, and discussion groups that talk about job options and training.

Sulit said in support of initiatives of the CNAP Core Council of the Philippines (C3P), a job fair last March was held at the Meralco Foundation Institute in Pasig City participated in by more than 500 Networking Academy Program students. The fair was mostly attended by popular call centers like Accenture, People Support, Sykes, and Convergys.

“Simultaneously, we had the finals for the networking skills competition?wherein all of the 42 Cisco academies competed on how to design, build, and maintain computer networks,” Sulit said. “The competition makes the program more appealing as it could bring the students to regional and even worldwide competitions.”

He added the UNV also has a Yahoo listserv groups with over 400 alumni participating in different discussions regarding job openings and training.

The partnership between Cisco and the UNV in 2005 resulted in the placement of two National UN Volunteers (NUNV) – Juan Huerta Brogeras and Goizeder Ruiz Gopegui in Manila and Iligan City in Mindanao, respectively.

Brogeras is a Spanish ICT specialist who trained at the Instituto Espanol de Comercio Exterior (ICEX Spanish Institute of Foreign Trade), while Gopegui is an IT specialist and member of the UNV Women’s Media Circle.

To further strengthen the CNAP program, Cisco partnered with the Growth Equity for Mindanao (GEM) that runs the CLIC program (Computer Literacy Internet Connection) funded by the USAID. CLIC provides computers and Internet connection to schools.

Sulit revealed Internet connection was the most challenging and most expensive part of their activities, as some schools were connected via satellite dish or VSAT and microwave. He did not disclose the amount but said everything was paid for by the USAID.

He said through all these ICT activities, Cisco and UNV are looking towards not only bridging the digital divide in the Philippines, but also to show volunteerism as a key factor in the success of the Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) activities.