Closing the Digital Divide to Power Health Equity

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Imagine a world where every individual has equal access to opportunity. A world of democratized digital connectivity and engaged, thriving communities, unrestrained by geography or socioeconomic status. Imagine a world where technology drives equitable access to healthcare, information, and education – with sustainability as a guiding principle for all actions.

Through the power of technology, we can realize an inclusive and connected future for all. The possibilities of tomorrow are endless, but first we collectively need to address the digital divide and lack of health equity around the world.

As of today, nearly half of the world remains unconnected. The inability to connect those roughly 3.4 billion people over the next 10 years of the digital age risks the effects of the digital divide becoming unrecoverable. In short, we are running out of time.

Cisco considers internet connectivity to be a fundamental human right in today’s digital age. The opportunity to deliver internet to the world is now and the stakes have never been higher.

Earlier this month at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference, I spoke with leaders from healthcare organizations globally about the ways in which technology can be thoughtfully used to create equitable access to resources, including healthcare. I encourage you to watch the session on demand here.

Imagine the possibilities

Through Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program, the business that I oversee – now in 44 countries with over 1,200 active or completed projects – I have seen firsthand the impact that technology can have on countries, governments, and citizens. Technology and connectivity move the needle in terms of GDP growth, driving health equity, and creating new opportunities for all, especially coming out of the pandemic.

Here are just some of the inspiring stories that illustrate the practical applications of technology worldwide to bridge the digital divide, help ensure health equity and power an inclusive future for all.

Autonomous Living Project – Ontario, Canada

The Autonomous Living Project’s platform is built on Cisco Webex and provides easy-to-use, high-quality, and secure integrated video calling. The platform lets you view and track your routines and reminders by setting alerts to manage day-to-day tasks. And you can also access emergency support should you need it. The combination of remote monitoring, smart notifications, alert services, and smart device integration gives people with diverse abilities the in-home support they need to be able to live independently.

Medcare Hospital – United Arab Emirates

teleMEDCARE, the hospital system’s telemedicine platform, helps recreate the hospital environment at home. Patients can “click to video call a doctor,” allowing them to call on a pool of available doctors as if they had just walked into a clinic or hospital. If the doctor recommends a consultation with a specialist, clients can arrange a pre-booked video consultation through the Medcare App.

Over the next 20 years, treatment demand in the Gulf Cooperation Council will rise by 240% and the total number of hospital beds will need to more than double to meet the requirements of the population. Our teleMEDCARE solution reduces the number of non-emergency cases arriving at hospitals and is a cost efficient and convenient way for patients to discuss healthcare management with their providers.

Oslo University Hospital – Oslo, Norway

Cisco’s multi-content solution enables doctors to remotely collaborate and discuss patient care options in a secure digital environment. This technology lowers the amount of time medical professionals need to spend travelling to consult on patient treatment options, reducing the total time needed to agree on the next steps, lowering the variation in patient treatment pathways, and enabling socially distant care.

For brain cancer patients, the time to decide the strategy for further treatment has been reduced from 6-8 weeks to one week applying this technology.

Tokyo English Lifeline – Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo English Lifeline (TELL) is a trusted provider of mental health and suicide prevention services in Japan. Japan has 2.8 million expats, but not all of them have a good command of the Japanese language. Since 1972, Tokyo English Lifeline (TELL) has offered an English-speaking crisis helpline to support expats struggling with their mental health. The outbreak of COVID-19 and downturn of the economy has significantly increased the demand for TELL’s services.

Cisco’s Webex Calling solution enables TELL staff to continue to deliver vital services to Japan’s expat population, all whilst helping protect TELL staff from exposure to COVID-19. Webex’s high level of security helps keep sensitive conversations and client data better protected from cyber threats.

Digital Canopy – Toronto, Canada

We have partnered with the City of Toronto to launch Digital Canopy – an investment of more than $1-million of in-kind technology and services to expand Wi-Fi access in some of Toronto’s most vulnerable communities. Digital Canopy’s free Wi-Fi hotspots enable low-income community members, who may be without reliable internet at home, to access much-needed online resources – including access to public health information and pandemic support services, like telehealth.

This program also helps bring access to remote education, work and the ability to stay connected to family and friends.

Creating a better world for all

These powerful stories are just some of the ways that Cisco, our customers, and partners are using technology to make a positive impact in communities worldwide.

Cisco technology provides the security, connectivity, and user experience that allows people and organizations to innovate, collaborate, and make a difference on a global scale.

The time is now. Let’s take meaningful steps

 

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