Driving the Digital Revolution


Global tech giant Cisco has built its culture around giving. So when Mark Cathro, creator of Auckland-based emergency services charity fundraising event series, Rescue Run, approached Cisco’s New Zealand country manager, Dave Wilson, about sponsoring the event, it was a natural coming together of two likeminded visionaries. 

To sum Cisco up fleetingly is the antithesis of its nature, but simply put, Cisco created the technology that enabled the internet and constructed the digital world we live in today.

Founded in San Francisco in 1984, with headquarters now situated in the innovation mecca of the world, Silicon Valley, Cisco is a world leader in developing and manufacturing networking hardware, telecommunications equipment, high-end technology solutions, services and products.

It is the largest networking company in the world and specialises in niche tech markets including the Internet of Things (IoT), domain security and energy management.

Its products are predominantly all open innovations (open APIs) enabling companies to build, develop and customise their products, which enables the internet throughout the world and the ability to launch products which create scale and visibility.

Cisco has over 400 New Zealand-based partners, a lot of whom established themselves and grew from their relationship with Cisco.

New Zealand is in a really good place digitally, with lots of innovative local talent and start-ups, and lots of big venture capital firms watching and investing in these. Some are even calling us the Silicon of the South.

“We’re very proud of where we’ve come from and what we’ve done,” Cisco’s Dave Wilson says.

“We’re an innovative and creative company that invests a huge amount in terms of innovation, research and development, creativity and acquisitions.”

If celebrating their two hundred and first acquisition doesn’t speak volumes enough of their commitment to investment in innovation, or their $6 billion plus annual spend in research and development, having $2 billion currently invested in the global market in break through companies certainly does.

The internet has become so central to human existence that in 2008 the UN declared it a fundamental human right.

Cisco is now focused on the second generation of the internet: The Internet of Things (IoT), and sees its role in that, as well as its evolution as a company, as critical to enabling it – and among its key priorities is how to secure everything.

There are currently more devices connected to the internet than there are people in the word, and the prediction is that by 2020 there will be more than 50 billion devices connected, a forecast from which the New Zealand business landscape is not exempt.

“We see it as a duty of responsibility to ourselves and to everybody to make sure that it’s secure,” Dave says.

Another key priority for Cisco is creating, adding and maintaining value in the countries they set up in, which brings us to how and why this mega tech company makes the perfect partner for the Rescue Run.

“We may live in a digital world and have a digital mind, but we have an analogue heart,” Dave says.

“It’s good that we’re doing our best in the digital world and securing it at the same time, but it’s also important to us to make a difference in the places we live, work and play.”

For Cisco it’s through corporate social responsibility – not only through the advancement of technologies themselves, but also through improving digital literacy.

Some say we are experiencing the fourth industrial revolution, moving from the ‘Age of Information’ to the ‘Age of Consciousness’.

Dave believes we need to spend less time scaremongering and more focused on the opportunities and upsides of this new life: Things being automated and digitised enable the freedom we’re searching for to spend more time with family and friends and exploring other things.

One thing is for certain: If you are complacent about digital literacy, you’ll find yourself falling further out of touch with the modern world.

As Dave points out, digitalism is becoming increasingly incorporated into the real world and just because you aren’t employed in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) doesn’t mean you will be exempt from technology’s grasp.

We now live in a world of zeros and ones and it’s going to be just as important for people in the arts to have digital literacy.

“Will jobs change? One hundred percent they will, but they always have over the years through all the past revolutions and evolutions,” Dave says.

For those comfortably established in their typically manual or analogue careers, fear not: Dave is a walking, talking example that people can not only be educated, but they can also be re-educated.

He “tripped and fell” into IT after leaving high school at 16 to complete his builders apprenticeship. Growing up; his school never had a computer, his home never had a computer, and he even remembers sitting down in his first computer course and writing, ‘This is a mouse and this is a keypad’.

Yet he’s enjoyed a long history in IT working across multiple different business landscapes and experiencing multiple different cultures including Australia, the Netherlands, London and New Zealand because of opportunities in training and retraining.

“Training and retraining is so important around digital literacy, especially for those well into their careers that have the skills the younger ones don’t have – if we retrain them it’s easy to step into these new careers.”

This is something Cisco identifies as part of its core social responsibilities. Its Network Academy creates content to gift to community colleges, schools, prisons etcetera to drive digital literacy, making people more aware and giving them a jump start in the world they will be living in.

The programme is changing lives – it has trained 2887 people in the Pacific Islands in the last 12 months, and recently Dave met a young man from Sao Paulo who went through the digital literacy programme in Brazil and is now living and working in New Zealand.

Cisco’s sponsorship of the Rescue Run is yet another admirable, archetypal example of how the company is making a difference in the real world, this time here in New Zealand; how it is giving back to the communities and the culture that surrounds us to uphold its commitment to maintain and add value in the countries it exists in.


The Rescue Run 

Being geographically small and remote in nature, New Zealand’s portfolio of emergency services is largely comprised of not for profit charities that rely on funding to do their part in saving lives.

In case you’re wondering just how much it costs New Zealand’s emergency services to save a life, the answer is approximately $5,000.

The Rescue Run is the brain child of Mark Cathro who, learning through a personal experience just how important emergency services are, found himself in a unique position to help raise awareness and make a difference through fundraising.

This support is critical, especially given the generally adventurous, thrill-seeking nature of Kiwis and the max exodus to the outdoors that occurs in New Zealand in summer.

The Rescue Run is an evolving event around how to continue to give back and address and tackle some of the big issues in New Zealand; and Dave is proud to say that New Zealand has among the highest per capita givers in the world when it comes to donating money.

Aware of Cisco’s influence in social impact, when Mark Cathro approached Dave to discuss sponsorship of the event, it was a comfortable coming together for a good cause and the backing Mark needed to make the event possible.

Dave acknowledges there are so many people and charities in need of and asking for money, but what really stood out with the Rescue Run and their team was sustainable giving.

“There’s so much need in the world – you could give all your money away and still not really make a difference, so what we’re looking at is sustainable giving,” he says.

“We’re out there trying to make a difference in the digital world and evolve it, and Recue Run is out there trying to bring awareness and make sure we’re prepared for real world events.”

Mark says his goal and that of the Rescue Run is to educate the community on the value of fitness, health and wellbeing; empowering New Zealanders with the knowledge and understanding of what to do in an emergency situation and how to react in the event of a natural disaster.

“Most of all, we pledge to collaborate with and support the emergency service professionals across this wonderful and generous country, so that they can continue to save lives,” Mark says.

In a world fixated on the automation of tasks –which is seen by some to embolden a lessphysically proactive culture – the Rescue Run iswelcome encouragement to remain in fine fettle,even if only to be able to experience the wondersthe digital world continues to deliver.

In 2016, the inaugural Rescue Run took place and was considered a raging success. Forty two teams entered, making a total of 252 competitors ranging in age from their 20s up to their 50s. Over $185k was raised which equated to 37 lives saved.

Mark and Dave are understandably extraordinarily proud to see the Rescue Run return in 2018 and it’s set to be even bigger and better, with multiple service charities now involved and a target of attracting 100 teams and raising $500k.

The 2018 course is extreme on a scale never seen before: competitors will be timed across a 15-kilometre-long, high intensity obstacle coursewhere points will be awarded for a variety ofteam challenges that each simulate real-worldrescue scenarios.

The challenges, which include patient rescue, a flood zone, a mudslide, a car pile-up, an earthquake zone, and a team challenge, have been designed by disaster relief and emergency professionals from Civil Defence, Land Search and Rescue Auckland, St John, Surf Life Saving Northern Region, Coastguard Northern Region, Auckland Fire & Emergency Service and others; so competitors are in for an authentic education.



Dave competed in the inaugural Rescue Run and says it was an experience he’ll relish forever.

“Participating in the event I not only had fun completing the activates with peers and partners to raise money and give back, but I myself now feel confident that I would know what to do to in certain rescue scenarios; increasing the chance of me saving the lives of my fellow citizens,” Dave says.

“Rescue can be associated to so many things and this year we’re incorporating a focus on youth, because New Zealand has one of the highest rates of youth suicide in comparison with the rest of the world.

“They are the generation that are going to be picking up the mantle of these things so it’s important to involve them.”

The Rescue Run is open to all businesses, charities and community groups not only nationwide but internationally as well, so on the advice of Dave, “Grab five mates, get fit and start fundraising for a good cause”.

For more information on the Rescue Run and to register a team, visit www.rescuerun.org.nz.


By Lydia Truesdale

Author: magazinestoday

Share This Post On