Published on Digital Development

"Hacking" the cybersecurity skills gap in developing countries

Members of the Nigeria CyberGirls Fellowship posing with their mentor. Members of the Nigeria CyberGirls Fellowship posing with their mentor.

The shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals has reached a record high in 2023, with about 4 million vacancies worldwide. The cybersecurity skills gap is growing fast, especially in developing countries. According to LinkedIn data from 2022, the number of job postings for cybersecurity roles increased by 76 percent in Brazil and 55 percent in Indonesia, against an average of 35 percent.

Without a skilled workforce, cybersecurity ecosystems cannot deliver.  From incident response and cybercrime prosecution to critical infrastructure protection, every facet of cybersecurity relies on a talented workforce to function effectively. The need to invest in cybersecurity skills development grows ever more pressing as the impact of cybersecurity incidents continues to increase. Today, the annual costs of cybersecurity incidents represent around 6 percent of global GDP.

Therefore, closing the cybersecurity skills gap is increasingly recognized as a priority by developing countries.  It will be one of the key topics discussed at the Global Conference on Cyber Capacity Building (GC3B), taking place in Ghana and supported by the World Bank.

Against this backdrop, what can governments do? Where should they start, and which solutions are more likely to deliver results, particularly in lower-income contexts?


Key cybersecurity roles
Figure 1 - 12 key cybersecurity roles according to the European Cybersecurity Skills Framework
Source: The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity ( ENISA).

The case for agile, multi-stakeholder partnerships 
New research by the World Bank looks at innovative models aiming to accelerate cybersecurity skills development from the United Kingdom, Israel, and Singapore to India, Togo, and Nigeria. It shows that promising initiatives, often driven by local communities and focusing on women and youth, are already delivering strong results and could be replicated and scaled up to the country and regional levels. 

The most successful cybersecurity skills development programs leverage both formal education, such as university programs, and lifelong learning opportunities to reskill and upskill the existing workforce. 

In Nigeria, the CyberSafe Foundation launched the CyberGirls Fellowship, a program that offers women aged 18 to 28 an intensive seven-month training in cybersecurity. The initiative spans 22 African countries and focuses on equipping participants from underprivileged regions with critical cybersecurity skills. The program has started small and is growing fast – it is expected to reach 1,000 students in 2024. The fellowship is financed by donations and partnerships with the private sector.

In India, Microsoft partnered with the Data Security Council to launch CyberShikshaa, a free program for training female engineering graduates from small towns through an intensive four-month program. Since 2018, CyberShikshaa has trained more than 1,000 women in cybersecurity. Last year, the program was expanded to include "CyberShikshaa for Educators", a "train the trainers" track, which focuses on faculty members across 100 rural institutions so that they can, in turn, share knowledge with their classes.

In Israel, cybersecurity education starts in middle school – and it is the only country in which high school students can choose cybersecurity as a standalone subject for their matriculation exams. But to reach and upskill teenagers from under-represented groups, such as those from rural areas, specialized cybersecurity programs have been established.

These agile, multi-stakeholder partnerships have the potential to grow at the speed and scale needed to close the cybersecurity skills gap. While they can take various forms, from public-private partnerships and skills academies to clinics and "train the trainer" initiatives, they all harness private sector expertise and online training platforms, which helps to reduce costs and maximize reach.

To close the cybersecurity skills gap, we must close the gender gap
A few months ago, our team was in Brazzaville, where we co-organized with the government of Congo a workshop on cyber resilience. A number of high school and university students passionate about digital technologies attended the event. Among them, a young woman named Inès took the floor: "I just graduated with an IT degree and a specialization in cybersecurity. But I can't find a job – most companies tell me that I don't have enough experience or that I should work in communications."

Inès' story resonates with countless graduates around the world, shedding light on two pressing challenges. Firstly, pervasive gender biases continue to discourage women from pursuing cybersecurity studies and careers, thereby limiting the talent pool. Women still make up less than 25 percent of the cybersecurity workforce worldwide. Secondly, despite the growing workforce gap, it remains difficult for young individuals to embark on cybersecurity careers. Recruiters' expectations are often unreasonably high, and there is a lack of entry-level opportunities. To address these two challenges, governments can develop policies that empower women and youth to join the cybersecurity workforce, for instance, through awareness-raising campaigns promoting female cybersecurity leaders, scholarships supporting tuition and professional certification fees, and programs that facilitate internships in cybersecurity.

Beyond enhancing cyber resilience, investing in cybersecurity skills development is a major opportunity to build a pipeline of high-quality jobs in developing countries . The impact of such investments extends beyond cybersecurity - it can drive socio-economic transformation. In some cases, the women who graduate from the CyberGirls Fellowship benefit from a 400 percent increase in their income. This kind of boost in earning potential not only empowers these women to support themselves and their families but also contributes to overall economic growth and reduces poverty – a true win for everybody.


Publication: Hacking the Cybersecurity Skills Gap in Developing Countries 
Webinar: Bridging the Cybersecurity Skills Gap


Ghislain de Salins

Senior Digital Development Specialist

Anat Lewin

Senior Digital Development Specialist

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