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Year One of NetHope’s Cybersecurity Training Program

“The collaborative and encouraging environment fostered within the online community created a sense of camaraderie among learners, which further motivated me to stay committed and succeed.”

October 6, 2023

By Zarc Okere, Cybersecurity Project Coordinator, NetHope


In 2022, thanks to the kind support and funding from USAID/DAI and Box, and core NetHope funding, NetHope was able to offer scholarships allowing deserving individuals from our member organizations. The scholarships provided recipients with the ability to acquire cybersecurity skills to protect their organizations and the world at large.

Great training requires a great trainer. In partnership with the SANS Institute, NetHope, via our Digital Protection Program, offered foundational training and certification to 73 learners. The training and certification follows the SEC275/ GFACT pathway and is a technical training course providing a wide-ranging body of knowledge enabling students to better defend digital systems. SANS provided online and physical course material as well as student and progress support.

As expected, when NetHope announced the scholarship, the response was massive. With only 73 openings, we received more than 220 applications from 68+ global humanitarian NGOs. Just looking at the number of applications received and individual stories within them tells a compelling story of the need of experts in the field of cybersecurity.

“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.”

- Digital Protection Program Scholarship Candidate, Senegal

Identifying the right students from over 60 member organizations was an uphill task, and to be fair to all, we tried to be inclusive of as many factors as practical, i.e., gender, number of applicants per organization, regions represented, and the need and qualifications of applicants, amongst many others.

Our learners, representing 27 countries and 48 separate organizations, balanced their daily work responsibility and other commitments with this rigorous training program. To best support them and build a long-term community, we opened a communications platform so students could interact with course administrators and other students, allowing them to ask for assistance and collaborate on projects.

For the first six months we ran monthly tutorial sessions thanks to the kindness of speakers from the  SANS Institute, Oxfam, IRC, Kenya Education Network, and NetHope.


As of May 31st, a majority of learners have completed all of the course syllabus with many passing the certification and becoming GFACT-accredited professionals.

Learners reflected that “the course content was meticulously organized, covering all the essential topics in a logical sequence. The lessons were presented in a clear and concise manner, which made it easy for me to follow along and grasp the concepts effectively.”

Other learners emphasized the relevance in their roles, directly aiding their day-to-day tasks. One student commented that, “The collaborative and encouraging environment fostered within the online community created a sense of camaraderie among learners, which further motivated me to stay committed and succeed.” At NetHope, we are always proud of this type of feedback – and the vibrant community our Members foster – a commons greater than the sum of its parts.

Jade Elajami, Disaster Support Manager at World Vision International

One course delegate, Jade Elajami, Disaster Support Manager at World Vision International, said:

"NetHope has played a tremendous role in spearheading the direction I want to take as a humanitarian in the IT space - I manage solutions that are used in disaster management and response coordination, with little to no formal educational background in IT.

Through SANS Training I was able to build on the skills I needed for professional and personal development. I was able to theoretically understand how systems work, able to interact with security tools, use the development environment to write and test code and learn so many other aspects that I was not fully able to comprehend beforehand.

My experience at NetHope has helped me answer my calling - understanding what it is like to be a true humanitarian; helping me professionally, and allowing me to mentor and support other women to build strong, trusting relationships that motivate and guide us toward future goals as humanitarians."


As we wrap up our first year, we are looking forward to the second year of our scholarship program and continuing our partnership with the SANS Institute and our funding partners. We are targeting cyber defense training for Y2 – giving our Members better and stronger tools and skills to detect intrusions and defend against targeted attacks. Join us!

This training program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 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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