Social Inclusion Case Study: Cisco Systems

December 12, 2011

by AQ Inclusion

Cisco Systems, Inc., a computer networking firm with over 70,000 employees worldwide, is committed to not only selling its products to Latin American and Caribbean countries but also encouraging community development and promoting social inclusion within those markets. Accordingly, Cisco has partnered with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and public-sector institutions to maximize the impact of its technological expertise on local populations—which is a model that other corporations should consider.

Cisco's flagship corporate social responsibility (CSR) tool is its Cisco Networking Academy (CNA) initiative. Started in 1997, CNA delivers practical, hands-on training in information and communications technology (ICT) in the areas of designing, building, troubleshooting, and securing computer networks. The goal of CNA is for students to further their education, prepare for careers in ICT or even start their own businesses.

CNA is a public-private partnership; Cisco teams up with universities, NGOs and government agencies to develop the ICT courses and—leveraging those partnerships—maximize access for those in the lowest socioeconomic percentiles. There are over 10,000 CNAs across 165 countries; in Latin America its reach spans 22 countries via 1,200 partner organizations since the program's inception. 600,000 citizens of Latin America—including 174,000 this year alone—have enrolled in CNA courses . Worldwide, Cisco has trained 3.75 million people to date, 900,000 of them just in 2011, with women comprising nearly one-fourth of trainees.

CNA courses are delivered in multiple languages and utilize instructional tools that address all learning modalities. The initiative equips graduates with the technical know-how that can help them fill the skills gap in Latin America and become productive members of the workforce. Here are specific examples of Cisco's social imprint across the hemisphere:

Above: a typical Cisco Networking Academy. All photos courtesy of Cisco Systems.


Cisco helped establish Infofá, a website that connects low-income Mexicans to an interactive portal that offers tools—financial, health, labor, legal, and educational—that focus on how to move up the socioeconomic ladder. This website was launched in partnership with One Economy Corporation and E-Mexico, a government initiative of the federal communications and transportation secretariat.

Also, Cisco participated in Jóvenes en Acción (Youth in Action), a public-private partnership and youth leadership development program conceived by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and in close collaboration with Mexico's public education secretariat.

In Mexico, Cisco uses its technologies to curtail the drug consumption rate among youth by pairing its CNAs with Centros de Integración Juvenil (Youth Integration Centers, or CIJ). CIJ is an initiative funded by Mexico's health ministry that researches how to curb drug usage among teenagers and promote drug treatment and rehabilitation programs. In affiliating some CNAs with a few of Mexico's 113 CIJs, Cisco is teaching educational and technical skills to disadvantaged, troubled youth by showing the importance of professional development as a meaningful alternative to drug consumption. To accomplish this, rather than sending in Cisco technicians, the on-site psychologists and therapists at the CIJs are trained to administer the CNAs—as these specialists can better relate to these particular youth.


Cisco has paired with roughly 10 Brazilian NGOs to offer its IT Essentials curriculum to underprivileged Brazilians. A sample of the NGOs that have agreed to offer this Cisco course to their constituencies include: Associação Vida Jovem; Aldeias Infantis SOS; and Viração. In the near future, Cisco expects to double the NGO total to 20.

Above: an instructor teaches the IT Essentials course at the CNA in Aldeias Infantis SOS, located in São Paulo.


Cisco signed on to Becas Control+F, a joint initiative of Argentina's Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security, the Chamber of Software Companies and Information Services (CESSI) and the top five information technology (IT) companies in Argentina. Becas seeks to bolster the IT skills of Argentine youth. By way of CNAs and the IT Essentials curriculum, Cisco is able to train the Becas students—70 percent of whom are unemployed—with the requisite skills to get their first job and, over time, advance in the workforce. Since the November 2008 launch of Becas, Cisco has trained close to 1,500 people.

Stay tuned for a future post on Cisco's activities in the Dominican Republic.

Tags: Education, Social inclusion, Women's rights, Technology, Cisco Systems

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