IGF 2023 Lightning Talk #174 Switch! - an inclusive approach to capacity building

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (08:50 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (09:20 UTC)
SC – Room H
Cybersecurity, Cybercrime & Online Safety

APNIC Foundation
Sylvia Cadena, APNIC Foundation, Technical Community, WEOG


Sylvia Cadena, APNIC Foundation, Technical Community, WEOG

Onsite Moderator

Sylvia Cadena

Online Moderator

Ellisha Heppner


Sylvia Cadena


5. Gender Equality
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Targets: The Switch! project is aligned with SDG 5 and 9, as it supports a very concrete strategy to build the skills and capacity of women and gender diverse engineers and cybersecurity professionals, so that they can in turn, and contribute to the development of the Internet infrastructure.


Video introduction and presentation of the project by Sylvia Cadena, followed by interventions from selected project participants and national coordinators joining remotely to share their experiences. Session will include time for Q&A.

Duration (minutes)

On this lighting talk, we will be sharing about the experience of the APNIC Foundation work to tackle the lack of diversity in the Internet industry. Through an extensive consultation process, the Switch! project started about 3 years ago to identify women and gender diverse network engineers and cybersecurity professionals across 6 South East Asia economies. Part of the consultation supported the design of the project approach, tailored to the needs of the participants, and exploring strategies to build technical skills, operational capacity and confidence so that in turn, selected participants are willing -and able- to engage more actively with Internet development. Switch! has supported over 200 individuals from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Timor Leste, The Philippines and Viet Nam to develop their own Professional Development Plans and commit to their learning journey. The participants are supported by a National Coordinator to identify the pathways that best suit their individual needs and encourage to pace their learning to achieve their goals, always looking at the opportunities to share their learning and be seeing as active and productive technical community members. The project funds technical training and certification across a wide variety of training and education providers, as well as providing coaching and complementary support around language proficiency, public speaking and management skills. Selected project participants have also receive support to further develop their research interests through small research grants for selected research topics, with a commitment to publish research outcomes and share with their technical community. Although most of the support is providing online, the project also supports travel and accommodation expenses to technical events and conferences that are aligned with their personal plans, and assist them to prepare their interventions and presentations. The project offers to the participants a simple online tool to track and report progress, that powers a dashboard that allows the project team to keep track of progress at country level as well as the overall project level. The project was initially funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) and Trade of the Australian Government and was later expanded with generous support from the Asia Pacific Internet Development Trust (APIDT).

The session will use at least one online poll to gather questions and comments from the audience. The session will have an onsite and online moderator addressing the comments and questions from the audience.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

In developing gender and diversity training programs to support women and LGBTQI+ people in the technical community, it is crucial to place the individual needs of each participant at the forefront and try to genuinely understand what they want and need.

In training programs, it is important to look beyond just the technical skills and certification, and consider soft skills like languages, management and those involved in networking.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Technical organizations, be they public or private, should actively support women and LGBTQI+ people in their career development, which may extend beyond just training - career development opportunities and access to networks of peers is crucial.

It can be difficult for young women in technical industries to understand all the opportunities that are open and available out there, which requires outreach and mentorship. Technical organizations can start early in spreading awareness of career paths.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

This lightning talk discussed the Switch! Gender and Diversity project by the APNIC Foundation.

The Switch! Gender and Diversity project operates in the economies of Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Timor Leste, Thailand and Viet Nam. The project seeks to improve the technical knowledge, skills and confidence of women and LGBTQI+ technical staff working on Internet network operations and security, and to help them acquire and validate professional certifications in network operations and security with which to advance their careers. Participants engage in a variety of training activities in programs tailored to each participant’s professional development plan.

APNIC Foundation Senior Project and Business Coordinator Cathlene Corcoran moderated the session and Foundation CEO Sylvia Cadena gave an introduction to the Foundation and the Switch! project.

Switch! Participant Maristela Miranda shared her experiences in the project. She noted that the project helped her expand her career path and opportunities. She noted that while the project had mentoring opportunities, there is also the possibility in future of providing guidance to young women about what career paths and opportunities are out there.