The Asia Foundation to train up to 300,000 small biz in Asia on digital safety, 5,000 in Sri Lanka

Monday, 12 February 2024 04:11 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Key initiative through APAC Cyber security Fund with $ 15 m support from, Google’s philanthropic arm, is providing $ 15 million to The Asia Foundation to launch the APAC Cyber security Fund in partnership with 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 organisations and universities across the region, The Asia Foundation aims to equip local communities and students via up skilling 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 has 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 this 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 business against malicious activities and other threats in the cyberspace.

Seeking to build a digital ecosystem that is inclusive and safe for all, the APAC Cyber security Fund, through The Asia Foundation, will connect small businesses and vulnerable groups to local training opportunities and resources to build and strengthen their digital defence. With the support of local implementing partners, the initiative will deliver cyber clinics and up skilling activities in Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

“We are proud to support The Asia Foundation in equipping vulnerable organisations, such as small and medium enterprises and non-profits, across Asia Pacific with essential cyber security 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 Cyber security 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,” said APAC Lead Marija Ralic.

In Sri Lanka, which 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 recognise 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 defences. It is not just a strategic necessity, but a critical national investment to empower these enterprises with comprehensive cyber security education and awareness,” De Silva said.

Small Enterprises Development Division Director Sudheera Jayarathne, 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 have 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 under this project will empower us to achieve our goal.”