“Clearly, we are living in unprecedented times. We are facing a global crisis. But, as an enterprise, we are in a position to help and our focus is to aid organisations around the world battle COVID-19,” said Pankaj Agrawal, Sales Director for Collaboration Business at Cisco, India and SAARC during the Future of Work webinar hosted by YourStory, and powered by Cisco Webex, on April 8.
He highlighted how healthcare frontline workers in India are facing unique challenges. “Some of the questions that doctors are facing today is how they can serve the maximum number of people given the travel restrictions and paucity of doctors in the country. India has just four doctors for every 10,000 citizens. The other big question for the healthcare community has been how hospitals and healthcare institutions can coordinate efforts” Today, Cisco has helped find answers to some of these questions.
“We are setting up war rooms for healthcare organisations consisting of interactive video devices and Webex. And, these are being used to drive COVID-19 response efforts efficiently.”
These efforts, led by Cisco, are happening around the world, and a lot of it is happening in India, he added. Pankaj explained that all these initiatives have all been pro bono. “This is because we have the most secure and highly scalable video platform to enable these outcomes, and it has always been in Cisco’s DNA to support such initiatives.”
Here are some key heights of his interaction at the ‘Future of Work’ webinar.
The fight against COVID-19 and Cisco’s efforts in the direction
Recently, Cisco $225 million in cash, in-kind, and planned-giving to support both the global and local response to COVID-19. In addition, the enterprise is rallying its 77,000 employees and encouraging them to give what they can to help community partners on the frontlines bolster their operations in this time of need. As part of their commitment, Cisco is allocating $8 million in cash and $210 million in products to the global novel coronavirus response.
The company is focusing these resources on supporting healthcare and education, government response, and critical technology. Part of this will go to the United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, supporting the World Health Organization’s (WHO) worldwide efforts to help prevent, detect, and manage the spread of COVID-19.
Through its Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) programme, Cisco is providing funding for heads of state, government agencies, and businesses to rapidly deploy COVID-19-related technology solutions. They are also empowering those on the front lines with access to the company’s critical technologies with free Webex and Security offers.
In India, Cisco has provided Webex to over 200 government entities and healthcare organisations, which amounts to approximately 35,000 licences. In addition, they have donated a large number of video devices. Pankaj shared an interesting anecdote on how they were able to mobilise the video devices amid the shortage to procure or manufacture them.
He said, “ With the challenges on the supply side, it was becoming difficult to make these units available rapidly to these healthcare and government organisations. So we got thinking about what could be done. That’s when we realised that each of our offices, which are spread across so many cities around the world had a large number of video devices, conference rooms cables and related infrastructure ready. The company then took a decision to take those units and donate them to organisations that need them.”
While this has been an effort driven across Cisco offices around the world, in India, the company has donated the units from its Bengaluru, Mumbai and other offices. Pankaj pointed out that while they will now not have access to these devices when they get back to their offices post lockdown, they are still happy to have made a difference to the COVID-19 relief efforts.
And the impact was immediate. On April 7, one of the state health care institutions trained 25,000 health workers on COVID-19 response using Cisco Webex over a period of three weeks. “This is just a tiny peek into the scaling up of the relief efforts that has been enabled because of our platforms and tools”, said Pankaj.
The new normal of remote working: Challenges and opportunities
Today, people are familiar with the challenges that come with remote working. Some roles definitely aren’t equipped to adapt efficiently to work from home routines, some find time management difficult, many feel they are putting in more hours than they did on a usual day at work, and many others find remote working isolating. While Pankaj agreed that some of it is true, he said remote working is not without its advantages such as the ability to save on commute time and to leverage that for work. “In addition, today we have tools and platforms that enable employees to feel connected and stay motivated.” He pointed out how Cisco’s solutions are giving employees a sense of engagement even when they are socially distanced. “By driving a video-first culture, you can level up the employee satisfaction levels.”
Today, Cisco Webex Meetings delivers over 15 billion meetings a month, offering industry-leading video and audio conferencing with sharing, chat, and more. It comes with features such as the ability to join and present from any meeting, event, or training session, hands-free voice commands with Google Assistant, Siri and Google Home Hub, seamless joining directly from your calendar or customisable widget, scheduling meetings or playing back recordings directly from the app, customisable video layouts and screen sharing.
Pankaj said that in the last one month alone, Cisco has enabled thousands of organisations in India for remote working. “These organisations cut across sectors and sizes, Banks, manufacturing companies, technology companies, unicorns, startups.”
Pankaj also applauded the government for playing its part and putting in place the basics for a smooth transition to work from home for millions of professionals.
“Today, the transition to remote working has been relatively easy not just because of tools like Webex but also because the government has ensured that the internet bandwidth has been good and there’s no shortage of electricity. It’s easy to discount them in the larger scheme of things, but in reality it takes a lot of planning and effort by the government as well.”
Pankaj believed that in a country like India where people often spend a couple of hours on the road, organisations will eventually look at remote working as a more viable option and incorporate some amount of remote working in the work contracts going forward.
Collaboration without compromise
The need to quickly adopt collaboration tools to adjust to enable efficient remote working has not been without pitfalls. There have been instances where platforms have seen security breaches and hackers getting access to user data. “That’s why organisations must look into security and privacy-related concerns with equal importance to ease of use,” said Pankaj.
He added, “In a closed-door meeting, you are assured of confidentiality. Now when the same meeting moves to a collaboration platform, you should expect the same level of confidentiality. You need to look into the finer aspects such as who has access to your data, if the data is being rented or sold to external organisations, etc. In short, it is very important to undertake a serious assessment of the security and privacy track record of the collaboration solution that you choose at Cisco Webex.”
He pointed out how Cisco Webex fulfils all that need. “Our guiding principle has always been collaboration without compromise.” Pankaj explained that Cisco does not rent or sell personal data, and provides the option to enable end-to-end encryption of data for not just data in use, but also while in transit and rest. It comes with a security key that lets you control Intellectual Property. The data is stored in-house and cannot be compromised by outsourcing that to a third party.
“We build products based on a Cisco secure development lifecycle, and we have an independent security and trust organisation that is independent of Webex, which monitors all of this. So it’s no surprise that we are a long-standing market leader trusted by 95 percent of the Fortune 500 organisations.”
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