In the first 11 days of March, 5.5 billion WebEx meeting minutes were consumed in 221 countries and territories. The unprecedented rise in usage allowed organisations to maintain connectivity and productivity before coronavirus was officially labelled a pandemic

While Zoom (and its share price) has been getting attention throughout the crisis, WebEx is already in place to do the heavy lifting for video conferencing, online meetings and webinars across enterprise and government sectors.

Miyuki Suzuki, President, Cisco Asia Pacific, Japan and China, shared the WebEx data today at the virtual edition of Cisco Live. 

Originally scheduled to take place in Melbourne at the beginning of March, the event was one of the first Australian events to be cancelled due to coronavirus fears in mid-February. At the time Australia had 15 cases of COVID-19. Today there are more than 4,700 cases and 20 deaths. 

Miyuki Suzuki, President, Cisco Asia Pacific, Japan and China

Speaking during the virtual keynote, Suzuki described coronavirus as a global humanitarian crisis of unprecedented magnitude and said businesses and government must find a way through the disruption.

“Organisations around the world are moving very quickly, much quicker than they ever imagined, to remote working,” she said. 

In response to the crisis Cisco has moved to its own work from home setup and created free offers of WebEx, Maraki, VPN and security products. And the company has increased network bandwidth to support its customers. 

Suzuki said Cisco is working with telecommunication companies and service providers to anticipate the surge in demand and expand their infrastructures and capabilities. 

For example, in Australia Cisco has worked with telco Optus to set up new remote contact centres to rapidly increase the number of remote agents available to serve their customers.

Telstra and Cisco have also partnered to create free trials of virtual meeting rooms, using WebEx, so that businesses can conduct business as “normally as possible”.

In the education sector, WebEx-enabled virtual classrooms are multiplying as schools severely limit the number of students who physically attend classes, or temporarily close down altogether. 

According to Suzuki, the Victoria Department of Education and Training has been investing in implementing remote learning capabilities for many years now, and are “very well equipped and prepared for the current crisis.” 

In the medical and healthcare sector, Cisco has been working to enable mission-critical work at the frontlines of the pandemic.

“Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, we’ve been supporting doctors and nurses and hospitals in China with video conferencing and networking and remote diagnostics,” Suzuki said. 

COVID-19 Legacy 

The changes companies and governments have had to put in place to continue to function in a contactless world will have a lasting impact, Suzuki argued. 

“The future has changed irrevocably. The events that this world is facing now will reshape the way we live, work, learn and play. “ 

“This pandemic – I suspect it will stretch on for some time unfortunately. But we have to make sure that we emerge and learn the lessons from this period, and make the changes, lasting changes, which will benefit businesses, and markets, and our community at large.” 

In a video message, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins echoed that sentiment. He noted technology has enabled organisations to continue to communicate and be productive during a very challenging time. 

“I truly believe that the technology and the solutions that we all deliver together are so critical for us to get through this crisis,” Robbins said. 

“I do believe that as we emerge from this crisis, we will come out stronger and we will find new ways to work. I believe we’ve established a new normal for how we all work together in the future. And people aren’t afraid of this technology, they understand how to use it.”

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