Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, is providing $ 15M to The Asia Foundation to launch the APAC Cybersecurity Fund in partnership with the CyberPeace Institute and Global Cyber Alliance to bolster cyber capabilities of 300,000 underserved micro and small businesses, nonprofits and social enterprises. Working with implementing organizations and universities across the region, the Asia Foundation aims to equip local communities and students via upskilling tools and cyber clinics to protect against online risks. The initiative will span 13 locations, including Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
Asia and the Pacific have become “ground zero” for cybercrimes, recording the highest number of cyber incidents worldwide in 2023. The threats and impacts are more alarming for small businesses. Research shows that more than half of small businesses in the region have experienced a cyber incident in the past years, with malware attacks being the most common. Incidents like these threaten operations, result in revenue loss, and negatively impact a business’ reputation. More than 70% of small business owners express fears that serious cyber incidents could potentially end their business. With cyber threats on the rise, it is important for entrepreneurs and internet users to have the skills to understand and assess potential risks, and protect themselves and their businesses against malicious activities and other threats in cyberspace.
Seeking to build a digital ecosystem that is inclusive and safe for all, the APAC Cybersecurity Fund, through The Asia Foundation, will connect small businesses and vulnerable groups to local training opportunities and resources to build and strengthen their digital defense. With the support of local implementing partners, the initiative will deliver cyber clinics and upskilling activities in Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
“We are proud to support The Asia Foundation in equipping vulnerable organizations, such as small and medium enterprises and nonprofits, across the Asia and Pacific with essential cybersecurity skills and resources, to combat the growing cyber threats as they navigate through the digital economy. By leveraging global partners, local expertise and tailored training programs, the APAC Cybersecurity Fund adopts a collaborative approach to foster cyber resilience at the grassroots level. We are looking forward to the strides that this initiative will bring in creating a safer digital space in Sri Lanka and within the APAC region”, Marija Ralic, Lead for Google.org APAC said.
In Sri Lanka, ranked 81st out of 175 countries in 2020’s National Cyber Security Index, scoring especially low in protection for digital and essential services. The program aims to reach up to 5,000 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) covering 10,000 individuals. Country Representative for The Asia Foundation in Sri Lanka, Dinesha De Silva highlights the essential nature of the program:
“In the context of Sri Lanka’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, it is imperative to recognize the critical role of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises as both the drivers of innovation and economic growth, and as prime targets for cyber threats… The alarming rate at which a significant number of MSMEs are falling victim to malicious cyber attacks cannot be overlooked, highlighting the urgent necessity to enhance their cyber defenses. It is not just a strategic necessity, but a critical national investment to empower these enterprises with comprehensive cybersecurity education and awareness...”
Sudheera Jayarathne, Director of the Small Enterprises Development Division – a local implementing partner of the program – also shared his thoughts on the potential impact of the program on MSMEs:
“The Small Enterprises Development Division is making constant efforts to develop businesses by applying modern digital technology for businesses and has identified the need to provide knowledge on Cyber Hygiene and Cyber Security to Small and Medium Businesses. The opportunity to work in partnership with The Asia Foundation, supported by Google.org under this project will empower us to achieve our goal.”
About The Asia Foundation (asiafoundation.org): The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives and expanding opportunities across Asia and the Pacific. Informed by 70 years of experience and deep local knowledge, our work is focused on governance, climate action, gender equality, education and leadership, inclusive growth, and international cooperation. We work in more than 20 countries through our 17 permanent country offices and programs across Asia and the Pacific, supported by a headquarters in San Francisco and an office in Washington, DC. Our funding comes from a diverse array of bilateral and multilateral development agencies, foundations, corporations, and individuals.
About Google.org (google.org): Google’s philanthropy brings the best of Google to help solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges combining funding, product donations and technical expertise to support underserved communities and provide opportunities for everyone. It engages nonprofits, social enterprises and civic entities that make a significant impact on the communities they serve, and whose work has the potential to produce scalable, meaningful change.