Supporting innovation in development: CISCO expands its partnership with UNV

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On 8 March 2017, graduates from the Cisco Networking Academy programme serving as UN Youth Volunteers in Asia and the Pacific met virtually with Ms. Sandy Walsh, Cisco’s Director of Social Innovation Group for Asia Pacific and Japan, and Mr. Olivier Adam, United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme Executive Coordinator, to deepen private-public-community partnerships that empower young people and harness technology for social change, innovation and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Mr. Olivier Adam, UNV Executive Coordinator, with Ms. Manon Bernier and colleagues from the UNV Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, discuss deepening partnerships with Ms. Sandy Walsh, Cisco’s Director of Social Innovation Group for Asia Pacific and Japan, and Cisco graduates now UN Youth Volunteers in Bangkok, Thailand. (UNV, 2017)

Ms. Walsh commented, “What is exciting about the partnership with UNV and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is that it enables young people to bring together the skills and knowledge learned through the Cisco Networking Academy programme and apply them to addressing real social problems and challenges in this region.”

Since 2001, UNV has partnered with Cisco, a world leader in networking equipment solutions, to increase Information Communication Technology (ICT) access in under-served populations in Asia and Latin America. Cisco believes in harnessing the power of technology for launching a generation of global problem solvers who innovate like technologists, think like entrepreneurs, and act as social change agents —a vision shared by UNV and UNDP. Through this partnership with UNV, Cisco is connecting people through technology and expanding its social impact in the region.

Young people are recognized as innovators whose natural instinct for “disruption” offers enormous potential to development. As part of its Asia-Pacific Regional Youth Project developed by UNDP and UNV, a specific focus has been placed on harnessing public-private-community partnerships, enhancing volunteerism among young people and catalysing youth innovation.

Since August 2016, Cisco and UNV have mobilized seven Cisco Networking Academy programme graduates in their countries of origin, namely Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.

As UN Youth Volunteers, they are serving with UNV, UNDP and other UN Country Offices to support ICT incubators and labs, apply technology to solve problems, undertake institutional audits of networking and technology needs, and train others to develop their ICT and networking skills.

At the meeting, Mr. Mohammad Ilham Akbar Junior, a national UN Youth Volunteer serving in the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Indonesia Country Office, shared experiences using latest technology such as big data in his assignment.

He highlighted the uniqueness of volunteerism, commenting, “I learned that volunteering is the purest way to understand society because I can be part of it in a positive way and can approach challenges from different angles. Volunteerism is about making your vision of the future real. It is about the journey to become an innovator for an even better future.”

Mr. Adam also shared the value of partnering with the private sector, “The partnership with Cisco, who is not only leading technology and innovation but also empowerment of youth, provides young, bright people the opportunity to be exposed in the international development environment. I am glad to hear that the UN Youth Volunteers are bringing innovation to the UN system, allowing organizations to learn and develop from the new skills and expertise that young people are bringing from the private sector.”

He added, “We have a big agenda in implementing the SDGs, and we cannot do this without the private sector. We must increase the interaction between the UN and the private sector to jointly implement innovative initiative, especially by integrating volunteerism throughout the world.”