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In Year Two, Cisco Powers NetHope's Digital Breakthrough Initiative for Greater Global Impact  

Unleashing transformation through an innovative five-year initiative focusing on enhancing emergency preparedness and response, catalyzing nonprofit digital protection, and fostering climate collaborations in the nonprofit sector through the transformative power of technology.

April 30, 2024

In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide and empowering organizations and individuals to not just survive but thrive are more crucial than ever. The groundbreaking Digital Breakthrough Initiative is a dynamic partnership between Cisco and NetHope. It is at the forefront of driving positive change and transforming lives through technology. In its second year, the Digital Breakthrough Initiative continues to be a force for innovation. 

“We are grateful to Cisco for their unwavering support and ongoing leadership as we celebrate an important second-year milestone of the Digital Breakthrough Initiative. Cisco's dedication to driving innovation and transforming communities through technology has been crucial to the success of this initiative. Their commitment to bridging the digital divides, empowering under-resourced communities, and their visionary approach to creating a more connected and equitable world will enable us to continue making a lasting impact and bringing about positive change.” 

  • Lance Pierce, CEO, NetHope.  

We thank Cisco for its longtime partnership with NetHope from 2001 to today. Learn more about the impact made possible through the Digital Breakthrough Initiative in the past year below.

Empowering Nonprofits with Digital Protection and Collaboration  

In year two, NetHope has helped its global-scale INGO Members to improve their cybersecurity programs through its Digital Protection Program. Demand for support and collaboration remains high as cyber threats have greatly increased, and nonprofits face many challenges hiring personnel with data protection and cybersecurity capabilities. The NetHope 2023 State of Humanitarian and Development Cybersecurity Report continues to impact the sector, with its data being cited by Members and leaders throughout the nonprofit, public, and private sectors.  

The Global Humanitarian Information Sharing and Analysis Center (GH ISAC), with a design validated by 30 organizations and 10 partners, was launched and began offering advice and training. The Global Humanitarian ISAC is a central platform that enables governments, funders, technology companies, and other trusted providers to support the spectrum of information security needs of nonprofit agencies and the world’s most vulnerable communities. It was notably referenced by USAID Administrator Samantha Power at the 2023 International Counter Ransomware Initiative Summit as a critical part of ensuring the long-term cyber resilience of nonprofits. 

Incorporated into the Digital Breakthrough Initiative are capacity grants, and in year two, three sub-grants were awarded to Members, including Trócaire (to analyze country-level assessments in Africa focused on data protection legislation), Oxfam International in Senegal (focused on training civil society to strengthen the digital protection capacity of youth and women in Senegal while also building on existing digital inclusion programming) and SOS Children's Villages (focused on holding regional cybersecurity events in West Africa).  

In addition, support and training continue to be important mechanisms of the program. The vCISO program continues to have an impact, delivering 120+ consultancy hours to 19 NetHope Member Organizations. NetHope has also provided scholarships for industry-level training to nearly 90 individuals. 

The Digital Protection Working Group has grown significantly over the past year, with over 350 registered participants. It has become a vital forum for discussing best practices, sharing resources, and coordinating efforts to enhance digital security across the sector.  

Fostering Climate Resilience Through Climate Intersections  

NetHope’s Climate Intersections program launched a three-pillar focus for the program in year two: 1) Anticipatory Action – increasing resiliency with access to early warning systems. 2) Upskilling: building climate data skills for nonprofits and local communities. 3) Climate Equity – amplify and integrate community voices, experiences, and needs.  

The Climate Intersections program had a significant impact on the global stage, with increased visibility and presence at COP28. NetHope was granted UNFCCC Observer Status and had the opportunity to participate in the Green Digital Action, showcasing the innovative work being done at the intersection of climate and technology.  

The Climate Intersections Grant Program was launched to support the development and scaling up of digital solutions for climate adaptation and resilience. Three sub-grants were awarded to Members: Plan International, Islamic Relief Worldwide, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.  

In addition, throughout the year, The Climate Intersections Working Group held dynamic meetings serving as valuable opportunities for sharing best practices, exchanging ideas, and collaborating on impactful initiatives.  

We are proud of the Climate Equity Initiative in Uganda, a pilot collaboration between Ushahidi and NetHope, which launched in conjunction with COP28. By amplifying community voices and integrating their experiences into digital models, the Climate Equity Initiative aims to facilitate evidence-based decision-making, policy formulation, and targeted actions at local, national, and global levels. This is a testament to the strength and purpose of the Digital Breakthrough Initiative: building new partnerships and finding key intersections between programs and organizations to have a long-term sustainable impact.  

Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordination, Training, and Impact  

In year two, the Emergency Response and Preparedness Program integrated emergency connectivity support across multiple digitally focused domains, including digital skills and leadership, digital protection, and climate adaptation and resilience, with a lens towards localization. Through implementing three disaster response trainings in Guatemala, the Philippines, and Panama, NetHope was able to equip 259 emergency responders and ICT professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to tackle crises effectively.  

Additionally, NetHope strengthened its response capabilities by training 68 individuals to become emergency telecommunications trainers. NetHope began the development of a Localization of Digital Transformation course aimed at empowering local nonprofits with the technical capacity and foundational ICT infrastructure know-how. Moreover, Member coordination calls were held in response to emergencies in Morocco, Libya, Sudan, Türkiye & Syria, and Israel/Gaza so that key information related to the ongoing crisis and global emergency response being undertaken on a global scale by government agencies, NGOs, and civil society can be disseminated and coordination streamlined. NetHope’s Crisis Informatics blog published survey findings from NetHope Members describing barriers humanitarian organizations face when responding to emergencies.  

Finally, the 2023 State of Nonprofit Digital Skills Training Needs report was published, capturing 400 responses focused on training preferences and digital skills training needs at the local, regional, national, and global scale in the nonprofit sector.  

Looking Ahead 

As we look to year three, the Digital Breakthrough Initiative is setting ambitious goals for its upcoming phase, building upon the strong foundation and impact achieved in the first two years. The partnership aims to broaden its reach and deepen engagement. It will continue scaling proven programs, testing innovative uses of technology for social impact, and working towards a more inclusive digital future. The Digital Breakthrough Initiative programs have built momentum and shown the vast potential for technology to drive social impact at scale. The Digital Breakthrough Initiative has proven it can make tangible progress against these complex challenges. We are grateful for Cisco's continued partnership with their support of the Digital Breakthrough Initiative. We are confident that together, an even greater impact will be possible in the years to come.  


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