Last week in Burma, USAID hosted a technology delegation with the top American companies in the industry, including Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and Google. With extremely low Internet and mobile coverage in-country and the government’s determination to create a more transparent and efficient governance, we were on the hunt for partnership opportunities to make a speedy transition.

Burma’s Minister of Communications, Information Technology called the delegation the ‘ICT Dream Team’ and outlined specific ways in which we could be helpful. He told us how pleased he was that these companies were committed to both the economic and social development of their country. Too often others seemed to only care about the former.

Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer,l at 2013 Mobile World Congress. Photo credit: Visa

We knew that in order for everyone in the country to benefit from a digital economy and for the government to develop the know-how to navigate the technology, Internet was key. Fortunately the companies involved in the tech delegation have experience developing and rolling out projects in digital literacy and business skill training in other countries on a massive scale. One of those companies is Cisco.

USAID has a long history with Cisco on public-private partnerships and they too had recently established operations in-country. Together, we have successfully developed and managed alliances in more than 70 countries. These partnerships range from focused projects where USAID and Cisco address development needs in one community by providing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions, to large multi-partner alliances that have both broad and deep impact across a region or country, with the common goal of enabling human capacity-building and workforce development.

Drawing upon this established global partnership, Cisco committed to working with USAID to establish two Networking Academies in Burma within the next several months. Cisco Networking Academies are the flagship of Cisco’s social investment programs worldwide. They have established over 10,000 Networking Academies in 165 countries, helping individuals build ICT skills and prepare for industry-recognized certifications and entry-level ICT careers in virtually every type of industry. Over the next four to six weeks, Cisco will identify the location and donate lab equipment to support the launch of the Networking Academies.

This is just the beginning. USAID has long-standing relationships with the major global technology companies with track record of advancing development outcomes while aligning with core business interests.  The technology companies bring deep expertise, leading-edge technology products and platforms, and extensive experience in leveraging their core business and technology capabilities to advance outcomes ranging from strengthening governance and transparency, advancing education and fostering entrepreneurship and economic growth.

We know that broad-based economic growth is essential to long-term development. That is why USAID has adopted a model for development that seeks to achieve development goals more sustainably and at scale through high-impact and innovative partnerships.  With this in mind, we are building public private partnerships with U.S. businesses, university networks and civil society, linking them to development projects and encouraging the Burmese people to invest in their own development. Transition must come from within and USAID is committed to working alongside the people of Burma in building a path to prosperity.