Exclusive: Cisco Sees a Brighter Future for Colombia

From empowering the more vulnerable sectors of society to building smarter, more efficient cities, Cisco sees many ways that it can prosper in a mutually beneficial relationship with …

"If we change the environments and services that interact with urban inhabitants, we will be transforming much of the country," says Christian Onetto, general manager of Cisco Colombia.

From empowering the more vulnerable sectors of society to building smarter, more efficient cities, Cisco sees many ways that it can prosper in a mutually beneficial relationship with the people of Colombia.

Nearshore Americas sat down for an exclusive talk with Christian Onetto, the general manager of Cisco Colombia, to get his take on why they see such promise in the country. The company recently moved to expansive, revamped offices in Bogota’s Usaquen district, complete with Colombia’s first Customer Experience Room, and the expansion of Cisco’s world renowned Networking Academy program.

Onetto gave NSAM a tour of their new offices, which feature ample work areas equipped with collaboration technologies, telepresence facilities and demonstration labs providing customers and business partners with the opportunity to experience Cisco’s most advanced technologies.

The offices are situated on two floors of a prominent new skyscraper – one exclusively for the company’s clients and partners – featuring auditoriums seating over 100 people, the first Cisco Customer Experience Room of Colombia, quiet rooms for sensitive communications, various video conferencing facilities, e-café zones for collaborating with customers, as well as a data center and a demo lab. The Customer Experience Room is a unique and innovative space where the company’s partners and customers can participate in opportunities to gain first-hand knowledge of Cisco’s business model and technologies in operation.

“With this first Customer Experience Room opening in Colombia, Cisco aims to provide a unique and living center where visitors can feel the impact of the Internet of Everything in the creation of increasingly intelligent environments,” Onetto said.

He elaborated that the Customer Experience Room is a powerful model that the company has opened in several of its major markets so that customers can access Cisco’s technology through the dCloud (Cisco’s demo cloud) in which they engage in personalized work on their collaborative projects. The room also highlights the company’s offerings in areas such as data centers, corporate connectivity and security, and industry solutions (transportation, manufacturing, energy and oil & gas, among others).

Corporate Social Responsibility

Perhaps the proudest achievement for Onetto as the leader of Cisco’s Colombian operations is the success they have had with Cisco’s Networking Academy. “I have big dreams for the Cisco Academy in Colombia: to reduce the barriers to opportunity, the access to social and economic development of people, thinking of the 30% of the Colombian population still in poverty, they too can rise to the next level, and I think that companies like Cisco have a responsibility to help do this,” he said. “I believe that the opportunity we have in Colombia is to reinsert [displaced and disenfranchised] youth via education technology, so that they have a good opportunity in a country that is prospering like Colombia.”

Onetto added: “For the first time in all of my professional experience, not just at Cisco but at other tech sector companies, I see a grand opportunity to tackle clearly and directly the problem, and that is where Cisco will generate value for Colombia.”

One innovative educational system in Colombia is the National Learning Service (SENA), a network of trade schools, technical academies and university-level institutions open to all Colombians, but focused on providing educational access to students with limited resources.

“Networking Academy has about 10 years of experience (here in Colombia) out of Cisco’s 20 years of presence in Colombia, and it’s very relevant for Latin America, because we have around 600 partners. We have to date, around 120,000 alumni graduated from our networking programs, and furthermore we have two very interesting statistics,” Onetto said.  “The principal Network Academy in Colombia is SENA, it’s very important from the point of view of developing youth, certifying them, and educating them. We are second place in Latin America (after Brazil), and a statistic celebrated by the ex-director of SENA, Gina Parodi, now the minister of education in Colombia, is that we have the best percentage of female graduates, a little over 24%. That’s very interesting so we are fulfilling a diversifying role: inclusion of women, not just poverty alleviation, or for the socially vulnerable, but it’s the power to give opportunity to all men and women.”

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Building Smarter Cities

Onetto, added that all of Cisco’s expansion projects in Colombia will underpin the work that the company is developing hand-in-hand with the Ministry of ICT and the Colombian Chamber of Information Technology and Telecommunications (CCIT). This joint effort seeks to provide support infrastructure capable of delivering new services and solving some of the major challenges facing cities today, such as environmental sustainability, job creation, and economic growth. “Almost 70% of Colombia’s population lives in cities. If we change the environments and services that interact with urban inhabitants, we will be transforming much of the country. We will initiate processes to connect the urban centers and provide better services to the citizens,” Onetto said.

He sees plenty of opportunity for growth and collaboration; ways that Cisco can contribute to Colombia’s development. “A city like Bogota can implement a project like Smartlite, or Smart Traffic; it won’t solve all the problems completely regarding mobility that there are in a city like Bogota, but you can make it easier and faster for people to get from one place to another,” Onetto explained. “In the cities where we are developing Smart City, with sensors for example, we can put one in every garbage receptacle in the city, that will connect via the cloud, with 24/7 monitoring and we can understand how full each garbage can is. Why? To calculate the most efficient and optimum route for garbage collection, where and when to send the trucks. We saved the city of Barcelona, Spain 30% by implementing this process!”

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