Diversity in Leadership: Aglaia Kong – CTO of Cisco China
Today, only 35 percent of China’s citizens connect to the Internet. Of those, just 10 percent have broadband access. Yet, the country has 800 million mobile users—the highest in the world.
Cisco has a tremendous opportunity in China to help connect the unconnected. And when Aglaia Kong, CTO of Cisco China and VP/GM of the Connected Platforms Group, learned about the China Country Investment Initiative she set her sights on Cisco playing a leading role.
The country has allocated three quarters of a trillion dollars to the initiative, with the intent of transforming its education, healthcare, and energy management services. And while that may sound like a huge amount of money, it’s not. The country has more than 1.3 billion citizens—and 65 percent of those aren’t yet connected to the Internet. Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done—on a budget.
To overcome this obstacle, Kong spent months visiting more than 50 schools and 30 clinics and hotels in China. She compared her research with Cisco’s product lines to figure out how to create a purpose-built solution to first meet the country’s education needs.
“We have more than 300,000 schools and nearly 300 million students China,” says Yun Cai, China’s Minister of Education, National Center for Educational Technology, Deputy General Director. “Teachers aren’t used to modern tools. Students don’t have electronics. There is no way for the Ministry of Education to share teaching tools.”
But Cisco has changed all of that.
Following Kong’s research, it became clear that China’s Ministry of Education would benefit from a cloud access solution, where a single piece of equipment (working as a control point) would connect each classroom’s electronics together. This would include compute, wired, and wireless—also, whiteboards and projectors. Plus all content, apps, virtual spaces, and more. Then, the experience of connecting each classroom to the central cloud would be uniform and manageable.
It was also important to factor in local access requirements, different skill levels of IT administrators, harsh conditions like dirt floors, the risk of viruses, and very competitive pricing.
In the end, the answer was to create the Cisco Edge 300, an in-room, all-in-one access control point to bring Cisco’s architecture together—including core switching, routing, and data center, as well as WebEx for remote teaching. The solution also needed to be fanless to prevent dirt from entering the system, secure enough to prevent viruses, and use as little energy as possible to meet government standards.
Development of this solution, however, was challenging. Both funding and staffing were limited. The Emerging Country Board, the China Board, and various Engineering groups provided initial seed funding, headcount, and resources. Amazingly, in just ten months, with only $2.2 million, one engineering leader, five full-time engineers, and an intern delivered the Cisco Edge 300 to China’s classrooms.
“We worked together with Cisco, and now will be able to use the Cisco Edge 300 to equip each classroom with multimedia equipment,” Cai says. “We will also deliver education resources for each classroom.”
Cisco has already sold 8,000 units to the Ministry of Education, which they are currently deploying in about 2,000 schools. In the next two to three years, sales will accelerate as the country expects to spend $150 billion to connect all of its schools and students.
Today, the Cisco Edge 300 is available globally, and other countries such as Brazil, Mexico, and Thailand are beginning to replicate China’s success.
Our close relationship with China’s Ministry of Education, combined with our innovative engineers, is a great example of how we can help solve our customers’ most important business challenges—and change the way we work, live, play, and learn.
“We have a 5-to-10-year plan for China’s education technology,” Cai says. “Our twofold goal is to merge education technology across the country and adopt new teaching methodologies to keep up with a fast changing world. We thank Cisco for their thoughtful, longtime engagement.”