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Investing in nonprofit cybersecurity through 70 learners from 40 global humanitarian organizations

As a digital village, the NetHope Community is closing the critical gap in skills and capacity in cybersecurity.

August 23, 2022

We talk a lot about the critical gap in skills and capacity in international NGOs on Cybersecurity[1] – but it is so much better to be able to talk about the work we’re doing in partnership with others to try to fix it. The strength of NGOs comes from working together, and “it takes a village” to do the work safely. As nonprofits increasingly depend on the digital space, it will take a digital village to keep that work safe. This includes closing the critical gap in skills and capacity in cybersecurity.

Earlier in 2022, NetHope was proud to announce that thanks to Cisco, and then with additional support from Okta, we have been able to stand up a wide-ranging Digital Protection Program to address critical cybersecurity gaps in NetHope’s Members. These 65 nonprofit Members work in over 190 countries and in some of the most complex contexts as they strive for the good of people and planet, but (excluding governments) NGOs and Think Tanks are the most targeted sector by malicious actors in the digital realm according to Microsoft[2].

Now, thanks to USAID, NetHope is delighted to further fund a core component of that Digital Protection Program by building nonprofit cybersecurity expertise through our Cybersecurity Training Project. The Cybersecurity Training Project is from USAID’s Innovation, Technology, and Research (ITR) Hub, Technology Division (ITR/R), implemented in partnership with NetHope.

This Cybersecurity Training Project offers much-needed, private sector-level cybersecurity skills directly to 45 IT Practitioners across NetHope’s 65 Member nonprofit organizations and directly invests in individuals.

At the end of these sessions I’m planning to put what I’ve learnt into action; especially with local partner organizations. There’s really a gap in cybersecurity – I'm looking forward to being part of this first step, and thank you for accepting me!

- Candidate from Rwanda

Then, thanks to the further generosity of Box, we have been able to add an additional 12 scholarship places; and due to the extraordinary demand (300 applicants in 3 weeks), NetHope has been able to unlock additional unrestricted funding from its Collective Impact Fund – bringing the total number of places up to 70.

NetHope has partnered with SANS, a pre-eminent cybersecurity training provider who has been offering accredited security training for more than 30 years, and they have generously offered a steep discount to NetHope, enabling this funding to go even further.

The SANS course (SEC275 pathway) will position these students robustly to immediately put their skills to use improving and contributing to Members’ cybersecurity programs, defending their organizations, and the vulnerable people they serve, from malicious actors as well as building their own career pathway.

This week, we kicked off with a Meet & Greet with the first cohort of 15 participants, where learners connected with each other and shared their hopes – including the breakout quotes in this article.

This space, and the tutorial sessions NetHope will run throughout the course, and which further leverage support and partnerships with Cisco and Simprints, will allow us and the participants to contextualize their learning to the situations that their organizations work in, like large scale humanitarian aid programs, public fundraising, refugee support and education, medical provisioning for vulnerable communities, election monitoring, and the many other ways that NetHope Member organizations form part of and protect civil society around the world. 

In my role there are a lot of cybersecurity and internet security issues we need to deal with. We deal with refugees – the data we move around is always very sensitive and security and safety for them is at the top of the agenda.

- Candidate from Malawi

We hope that this program will sow the seeds for the next generation of cybersecurity leadership in nonprofits – in particular in the Global South. Our first cohort includes learners from Senegal, Benin, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, and Singapore. Through NetHope tutorial hours as well as enrollment in NetHope’s Digital Protection and Information Security Working Group, we aim to nurture and deepen connections across the ecosystem over the course of the structured training and ultimately drive further long-lasting gains through peer-to-peer support and network effects.

I started a couple of years ago by learning on the job and asked my manager to give me more (cybersecurity) training. Then I started looking at reports from different systems and taking some decisions as well as doing additional support across the region. But I want to empower my knowledge of both offensive and defensive techniques. [..] My other expectation is to meet with you guys; I want to build a strong community where we can help each other. We are located in different regions and we might need some help – knowing each other and building strong community is quite special.

- Candidate from Senegal

Please contact NetHope if you are a partner who would like to explore joining with us to further this program.

The SANS Digital Protection Training program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Innovation, Technology, and Research (ITR) Hub, Technology Division (ITR/R), implemented in partnership with NetHope. The U.S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide. The contents are the responsibility of NetHope Inc and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.



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