Continuing to support the cybersecurity ecosystem in the country, Microsoft announced the expansion of its CyberShikshaa program in association with the Data Security Council of India (DSCI), Tata STRIVE, and ICT Academy. In the next three years, the program aspires to reach 45,000 women and underserved youth with technical skills for careers in cybersecurity and provide internships or job opportunities for 10,000 learners.
Aiming to build a strong pool of diverse cybersecurity talent in the country, CyberShikshaa launched by Microsoft and DSCI in 2018, has successfully trained 1,100 women and employed more than 800 women through multiple training batches. More than 5,000 underserved youth have also been trained in Cybersecurity Beginners modules. CyberShikshaa for Educators with ICT Academy, the latest addition to the CyberShikshaa portfolio launched in June 2022 for providing cybersecurity training to 400 faculty members, will help build cybersecurity careers for 6,000 underserved students across 100 rural technical institutions and facilitate job opportunities for over 1,500 students.
In its fifth year, CyberShikshaa will focus on scaling the program, leveraging industry partnerships, and conducting specialized training for careers in the banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) industry. Expanding its reach into semi-urban and rural locations of the country, the program will offer AI/ML training for cybersecurity product development and enable cybersecurity certifications through an enhanced Cybersecurity Beginners program named ‘Ready4Cybersecurity’. More than 10,000 rural underserved youth will be enabled with Ready4Cybersecurity certifications.
The announcement was made in New Delhi in the presence of Rama Vedashree, former chief executive officer of DSCI; Tom Burt, corporate vice president – customer security and trust, Microsoft Corp; Dr. Rohini Srivathsa, national technology officer, Microsoft India; Hari Balachandran, chief executive officer, ICT Academy; and Rajarshi Mukherjee, principal lead – partnerships, Tata STRIVE. Microsoft and DSCI also released an impact summary comprising anecdotes from participants of the program in the last four years.
By 2025, there will be 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs open globally, representing a 350% increase over an eight-year period, according to CyberSecurity Ventures. In India, cybersecurity jobs are projected to grow by 32% by 2028, yet the talent pool falls short by 42%. Women represent only about 21% of the country’s cybersecurity workforce. Given the massive talent shortage in a diverse cybersecurity workforce, there is a large untapped opportunity to decrease this deficit by skilling and employing underrepresented groups. When cyber adversaries come from diverse backgrounds, the defender community must be equally diverse for understanding and succeeding against them. Expanding career pathways for women in cybersecurity, CyberShikshaa meets the twin objectives of addressing the gender divide and empowering underserved communities through technical training, mentoring internships, and employment opportunities.
Rama Vedashree, former CEO, DSCI, who has steered the program since its inception, said, “The government and industry are working closely now more than ever to create a safer, resilient cyberspace. In the last four years, we have seen this program create significant impact by providing cybersecurity skilling and employment for women. We are confident that the expansion of CyberShikshaa for specialized trainings aimed towards specific sectors will help bridge the skills gap and provide organizations with industry-ready talent.”
Anita Rajan, CEO, Tata STRIVE, said, “Given the rising need for cybersecurity professionals and the shortage of skilled talent in this domain, building a diverse talent pool is a key imperative for organizations. Training students and then connecting them to job opportunities or internships will truly enable growth opportunities for women professionals. We are excited to partner with CyberShikshaa and help strengthen the ecosystem through sustained skilling efforts across the country.”
Hari Balachandran, CEO, ICT Academy, said, “On a mission to prepare youth for the future of work, ICT Academy is glad to partner with Microsoft in empowering educators and women in the cybersecurity domain. Often, the lack of technical training or formal certifications is the barrier for any woman to begin a career in cybersecurity. Reaching out to rural students, creating awareness among women, and helping them learn at their convenience will create more aspirants and generate more women professionals in the field. Empowering the educators will also create sustainable impact in developing skilled professionals.”
Dr. Rohini Srivathsa, National Technology Officer, Microsoft India, said, “As the cybersecurity threat landscape becomes more complex, investing in cybersecurity skilling is crucial. These challenges are compounded by an acute shortage in skilled workforce. Demand for cybersecurity skills has increased by nearly 51% over the past year, but there simply aren’t enough people with the cybersecurity skills needed to fill the open positions. With the continuous training and subsequent employment of women through CyberShikshaa, Microsoft and its partners are committed to building the next generation of security leaders and ensuring a vibrant and diverse cybersecurity workforce in India.”
The CyberShikshaa training curriculum comprises intensive training for more than 400 hours in several modules, including Information Security, Application Security, Cloud Security, Cyber Forensics, Cryptography, and Network Security, among others, along with crucial employability skills such as workplace communication, email etiquette and interview preparation. Various learning initiatives under this program include:
- CyberShikshaa, in partnership with DSCI and Information Security Education and Awareness (ISEA), an initiative of Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY), trains young women and girls from Tier II and III towns for careers in cybersecurity through training partners like C-DAC and NIELIT.
- CyberShikshaa+, in partnership with Tata STRIVE, Tata Consultancy Services and Tata Communications, trains young women and girls in rural colleges for cybersecurity jobs.
- CyberShikshaa for Educators is designed for skilling faculty members and students from rural technical institutions for internships or jobs in cybersecurity.
- CyberShikshaa Women in Break is a training program on data privacy for women looking to restart their careers after a break.
- Ready4Cybersecurity is an awareness program for beginners in rural colleges and higher education institutions linked with industry certifications and internship opportunities.
- CyberShikshaa Mentorship, offered by security experts in Microsoft Security, provides CyberShikshaa girl students with opportunities to improve technical knowledge, industry exposure and employability skills.
- CyberShikshaa Customer Partnerships with corporate organizations and industry bodies are designed around employment, internship, and industry exposure sessions towards creating diverse industry-ready cybersecurity talent pool.
CyberShikshaa trainings are conducted in more than 100 centers across India, including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal. Through its extensive network of training institutions, industry associations, non-profits, and government and corporate organizations, CyberShikshaa has reinforced a strong ecosystem of partnerships that are driving sustained efforts in cybersecurity awareness and skilling.