Cisco has signed a research collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that aims to help promote a responsible use of technology as well as fairness, inclusion and equitable access in a global digital economy.

Cisco and the OECD Centre on Well-being, Inclusion, Sustainability and Equal Opportunity (WISE) are joining forces to examine the complex nature of digital transformation and its role as both a catalyst for progress and a source of potential risks to well-being.

“The OECD has a long tradition of work supporting policy makers better understand the digital transformation and develop appropriate policies to help shape a positive digital future,” says Romina Boarini, OECD WISE centre director. “Our initial report, ‘How’s Life in the Digital Age’, highlighted the benefits and challenges of digital transformation, from enhanced access and productivity to issues like the digital divide and personal security threats in people’s everyday life and workplace.

“Our partnership with Cisco helps us take the next step in broadening what we know about the interplay between technology and life to enrich our understanding of well-being in the digital realm.”

The collaboration aims to create an interactive, dynamic and engaging digital platform for sharing experiences to help develop a detailed picture of how digital technologies influence different aspects of our lives. Grounded in the OECD Well-being Framework, the platform will gather new statistics and people’s insights on digital well-being as a whole, including the impact of the digital divide and inequalities in the uptake and use of digital technologies.

Cisco’s involvement in the OECD WISE Centre initiative is an extension of its Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program, which has a long history of collaborating with governments, industry and academia to foster sustainable, secure and inclusive communities through over 1 500 projects in 50 countries.

“We cannot close the digital divide on our own,” says Guy Diedrich, senior vice-president and global innovation officer of Cisco. “Governments, industry, educational institutions, non-profits and community leaders must work together in new ways to prioritise our collective well-being for a healthy, prosperous and safe digital life.

“It’s no coincidence that the priorities and the OECD’s Well-being Framework resonate so profoundly. This partnership taps into Cisco and OECD’s collective expertise in understanding the risks and unlocking the value of digitisation across verticals and industries to ultimately power safe and inclusive communities, and resilient economies.”

The partnership between Cisco and the OECD builds on existing research into digital well-being. It acknowledges that while digital technologies offer benefits like improved access to education and health information, they also pose risks. The digital divide is notable, where those lacking digital literacy–a blend of technical, emotional, and social skills–fall behind, becoming vulnerable to mental health risks and safety concerns.

Recognising that broad internet access isn’t enough to participate in digital life, the new partnership seeks to rally citizens, businesses, policymakers and workers to develop a balanced approach that ensures technology improves well-being and mitigates potential risks.

Industry Study and Knowledge Hub

Cisco and the OECD will conduct research and create a global knowledge hub, capturing data and expanding knowledge on the influence of digital transformation on different aspects of people’s lives.

This initiative marks a crucial step in understanding technology’s role across a broader definition of well-being that covers 11 key dimensions: education and skills, healthcare, jobs and earnings, income and wealth, subjective well-being, smart communities–work-life balance and social connections–environmental sustainability, critical infrastructure, cybersecurity, governance and civic engagement, and housing.

The research aims to help users make informed decisions, empower individuals to navigate the digital landscape responsibly, and to promote a healthy relationship with emerging technology.

“While we continue to strive for full digital inclusion around the world, we cannot do so at any cost,” says Fran Katsoudas, executive vice-president and chief people, policy and purpose officer of Cisco. “It is our responsibility to keep well-being top of mind, and this partnership will help us connect with people around the world to learn about their experiences with digital technology–how it influences their social connections, their jobs and work-life balance, and their physical and mental health.

“Co-building a model and better understanding the role technology plays in everyday life is fundamental to our work at Cisco, and to pursuing our purpose to power an inclusive future for all.”

The Year Ahead

The partnership will launch its ‘Digital Well-being Hub’ in the second half of 2024. In November, Cisco will participate in the OECD’s World Forum on Well-being, which addresses the value of well-being approaches for improving knowledge, performance and cooperation across the public, private and civil sectors in a context of societal change.