Connecting Sichuan
In May 2008, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck the Sichuan province in China. With over two minutes of shaking, the earthquake ended 87,150 lives and left an estimated five million people homeless.

The disaster could have turned the province into a poverty-stricken area, but it did not.

Immediately after the earthquake, international organizations such as the World Bank and many multinational corporations aided the Chinese government in restoring essential infrastructure, health and education services to pre-earthquake levels.

One of the major projects was Connecting Sichuan, a three-year, public-private partnership between the Sichuan Provincial People’s Government and multinational tech conglomerate Cisco.

As the project’s key stakeholder, Cisco contributed $45 million to the recovery, with a focus on providing universal healthcare in earthquake-damaged areas, demonstrating how a disaster might be turned into an opportunity for transformation and progress.

Even before the disaster, which devastated medical facilities, healthcare delivery was a problem in Sichuan. Sichuan’s per capita healthcare resources were below China’s national average.

In order to increase healthcare access to the rural population in earthquake-damaged areas, Connecting Sichuan established mobile health centers in Sichuan Province. Mobile health vehicles connect patients with medical experts located outside the immediate community. The mobile health centers employ advanced technology to improve patient care and build healthcare capacity.

Connecting Sichuan also built regional health networks to connect healthcare institutions in urban and rural areas and provide reliable connections to external organizations, such as the Provincial Department of Health and general hospitals in major cities. This shared resource model delivered improved services at much lower costs.

Starting in 2008, Connecting Sichuan successfully supported remote diagnoses between West China Hospital in the provincial capital of Chengdu and temporary field hospitals in Qingchuan and Dujiangyan, helping approximately 30 million people access reliable, affordable medical treatment.

Most importantly, the mobile health center in Sichuan lowered gaps in treatment quality between medical facilities based on geography and income. The project fostered local ownership, helping rural areas prosper.

A focus on healthcare solutions after the earthquake effectively drove workforce development and fueled job creation while attracting investment. The development of the mobile health center in Sichuan is compatible with the “Healthy China 2020” blueprint, which aims to deliver universal health care to all populations.

“Corporate social responsibility isn’t just about writing checks; it’s about looking at opportunities to develop solutions that address social needs in a responsible and transparent manner,” said Tae Yoo, Cisco Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs.

By helping disaster-wrought areas, Cisco gains much more than tangible economic benefits. All U.S. corporations should aspire to match the invaluable human impact Cisco had on Sichuan Province.

Yvie Yao

Photo: Flickr

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with U.S. technology and communications giant, Cisco, to provide Burma with two new technical education centers. The two Cisco Networking Academies will provide valuable skills in information and communications technology to the developing nation, and provide citizens with job-ready abilities to bolster the country’s growing information and communications tech (ICT) industry.

The USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, has said that technology infrastructure can create stable and continued economic growth and development, and that “ICT can expand economic opportunities, transform public service delivery, and provide more opportunities for citizen engagement.”

Cisco has been a continual partner of USAID, having established networking education centers in over 165 countries, which have provided relevant skills for entry-level careers in ICT while also developing other valuable general career abilities including “problem-solving, collaboration, and critical thinking.”

In Burma, Cisco has agreed to donate the equipment needed to start the two Networking Academies and the training for 15 faculty members. Sandy Walsh, Director of Cisco’s Social Innovation Group, said that Cisco is dedicated to providing education to help continue technological development in “emerging economies,” and that the academies will aid Burmese citizens in gaining career skills needed in the 21st century.

Three additional American tech leaders, including Intel, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard, participated in a technology delegation to Burma, also led by USAID, in hopes of continued collaboration that will increase internet access and promote digital literacy and government openness. The partnership between USAID and Cisco hopes to create alliances with American tech companies, the local government, and the private sector to increase “social and economic development” using technological resources.

 – Christina Kindlon

Source: USAID
Photo: VOA

How Myanmar Will Avoid Being Earth's Most Isolated CountryHaving less cell phone usage than North Korea has made Myanmar one of the most isolated countries on the planet. Upon the United States’ decision to lift sanctions on the country, USAID was happy to sponsor a delegation of executives from Cisco, Google, Microsoft and other organizations to explore the possibility of establishing tech training centers in the newly open Myanmar market.

A little over two decades ago, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Myanmar when the military junta killed thousands of civilian protestors in one brutal onslaught. Currently, a new civilian government has been established and many of these sanctions have been lifted.

Companies like Google and Microsoft are offering Myanmar more than just tech services by establishing training centers in the country. The effect of these centers will be a reinforcement of Myanmar’s technological infrastructure.  The widespread availability of internet and cellular service allows a greater opportunity for online learning and social organizing via websites such as Twitter which can be used through either SMS messages or the internet.

Another avenue that becomes easier to access is international development and trade. By contributing to tech growth, Google, Cisco and Microsoft are also helping Myanmar contribute to the global economy. This in turn allows Myanmar to grow its own economy and strengthen foreign relations.

-Pete Grapentien
Source Yahoo News