Cisco Pivots its Powerful CDA Program to Help Ukrainian Refugees

Cisco’s CDA (Country Digital Acceleration) program is unique in the market in that its focus is to build a relationship with a country based on mutual goals in order to open that country up to Cisco’s products and services. It is very different from the more typical approach of trying to convince someone to buy a product or a service as its focus is to truly provide meaningful help to the country to address a critical problem.  

One of the things that makes this approach different is the creation of a bridge resource, a person from the country and generally tied to that country’s government that translates the country’s needs to Cisco, allowing Cisco to better craft a solution focused more on solving the identified problems and assuring the resulting relationship than making money.  

What makes the CDA program brilliant in concept is that rather than initially putting the vendor and client at odds fighting over prices and costs, it focuses both on analyzing the problem and coming up with a solution that first and foremost benefits the country and creates a solid relationship and foundation for future trusted collaborations and business. This approach places trust ahead of profits and likely puts Cisco above all other foreign technology vendors and most domestic vendors due to its almost singular beneficial focus.   

I’ve recently thought that this CDA program would be incredibly beneficial to Ukraine which is having severe communications problems due to its tragic war with Russia. And this week, Cisco announced its Cisco4Ukraine program which pulls heavily from its CDA approach and brings in unique capabilities like Cisco’s Networking Academy and Skills For All platform to create not only something that can engage the Ukrainian refugees but create a powerful foundation for the subsequent rebuilding of Ukraine into a powerful and self-sufficient nation. 

Ukraine’s big problem (other than Russia)

Once the war is won (and there seems to be little doubt that eventually, Ukraine will prevail), Ukraine’s big problem is that the country will need to be rebuilt. Rebuilding Ukraine will need to happen quickly so the country can not only recover the limited economic capabilities it once had but significantly exceed them so it can contribute to the EU and NATO, making it a better candidate for both organizations (taking on a dependent country is something neither group is particularly excited about). 

Ukraine has a lot of natural resources, a decent-sized population of eager citizens who have shown incredible resilience, bravery, and honor during the recent conflict which likely forged the country into something like post-WWII Japan. This means the country has the potential to quickly exceed its pre-war capability and become a true world powerhouse. Its citizens have the will, but to make this happen, they’ll need a way to collaborate and communicate beyond anything they had before the war. 

But given how Russia is focusing on destroying Ukraine’s infrastructure, they can’t start this transition until the fighting stops. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t get ready. Much like a sports team lives or dies on preparation and practice if Ukrainian citizens can be powered up with technical knowledge so that they can hit the ground running when Russia is pushed out, this dream of creating a vastly improved Ukraine can emulate Japan’s recovery even more quickly. Given that Ukraine’s natural resources significantly exceed Japan’s, the result has the potential to turn the country into a much more attractive partner to NATO and the EU.

Cisco’s focus

This is the focus of Cisco4Ukraine effort: to use the collaborative nature of its CDA program in concert with its Skills for All and Cisco Network Academy to upskill as many of Ukraine’s refugees as possible and make them not only more capable of repairing and improving Ukraine’s badly damaged communications and networking infrastructure, but to eventually install a next-generation capability that could allow Ukraine to leapfrog its neighbors and become not only more resilient to attack but effect what may be the fastest post-war recovery in history.  

After other large conflicts, we didn’t have the level of networking, computing, and communications we have today. Given the level of destruction it has suffered, Ukraine doesn’t have to make the usual cost-focused tradeoffs that existing countries typically have to make because they can’t justify the cost of replacing something that may be out of date but is still functional. Ukraine’s infrastructure has, like Japan’s was, been destroyed, so rather than wasting a lot of time and effort trying to blend the old with the new, they can not only jump to current technology but also jump ahead to where the rest of the world might be in a decade or so.  

Cisco’s focus appears to be to help Ukraine to do exactly that, give it the skills it needs to recover and advance faster than any country in history and surprise the world which is expecting Ukraine to limp back to where it was rather than sprint ahead to where the world will eventually be.  

Wrapping up:

Ukraine needs help. Like many of you, I don’t believe our governments are doing what they should to help the country by giving it everything it needs to stop its citizens from being murdered. The first company I saw step up and try to fill that gap was BlackBerry which staffed an unprecedented effort to provide Ukraine with the cybersecurity it needed to protect its power and computational infrastructure from cyber-attacks. That was necessary to help Ukraine survive.

But Cisco has now stepped up to assure not only that Ukraine survives, but can recover at an unprecedented rate and, if successful, should significantly help Ukraine recover at a pace unmatched by any prior post-war country and potentially emerge far closer to its ultimate potential than otherwise would have been the case. 

I applaud and revere companies, their leadership and employees, that step up to help the world become a better place. Cisco stood up and was counted, and I expect that’ll pay huge dividends for the company once Ukraine recovers, showcasing once again that if you are patient, think strategically and execute well, doing good can also be incredibly lucrative. To me, that’s the way things should be. And the fact that both BlackBerry and Cisco are more focused on the doing good part makes it all the sweeter.