Inspira Advisory and Consulting Outcome Collection Report

Date published: Nov. 27, 2023


In 2022, the Bangladeshi government launched Bangladesh Vision 2041 a strategy for the country’s digitization, designed to propel Bangladesh towards its goal of becoming a high income country by 2041. However, the dangers that accompany digitization will present significant barriers to the execution of this vision. In Bangladesh, cybercrime is prevalent and severely affects households and businesses. Cybercrimes and digital harms like malware and ransomware attacks, online scams, cybertheft, cyberbullying, digital property destruction, and the spread of fake news drain resources from the nation’s economy and endanger individual citizens.

Micro, small, and medium enterprises (in Bangladesh are particularly exposed to cybersecurity threats. Since the early 2010s, these businesses have gradually adopted IT enabled services and digital tools. The COVID 19 pandemic further accelerated the digital transformation as traditional MSMEs turned to digital tools and online platforms to sustain their operations. Additionally, many of the country’s urban and rural youth are emerging as online entrepreneurs by leveraging social media and e-commerce platforms.

However, despite increases in exposure to cyber threats, entrepreneurs in Bangladesh have limited knowledge about the severity and impacts of these threats, as well as measures that could protect their businesses from them. Many MSME owners have little formal education and low digital literacy levels, and they often fall victim to cyberattacks or cybercrimes. To address this issue, USAID's South Asian Regional Digital Initiative launched the Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign for MSMEs through a grant to the Bangladeshi consulting firm Inspira Consulting to enhance the cybersecurity practices of Bangladeshi MSME owners and improve their personal and business-related digital hygiene.

SUMMARY OF OUTCOMES:

-Built capacity and awareness of cybersecurity threats and safeguards among MSME owners in 7 key economic districts. E-commerce businesses are a vital driver of economic growth in Bangladesh: in 2022, there were 70 percent more e-commerce businesses in the country than in the previous year. This makes the entrepreneurial market segment a growing target for cyber criminals. Responding to this threat, Inspira launched an online cybersecurity awareness campaign that reached 3.4 million users; through this campaign, Inspira attracted 846 highly motivated MSME e-business owners to attend 12 in-person workshops. These workshops increased participants’ scores on post-activity cybersecurity knowledge assessments by an average of 30 to 40 percentage points.

-Developed and deployed processes for innovative, human centered program design; innovated and rapidly prototyped innovations, adapting them to fit the local context and development needs. Inspira’s proposed interventions navigated the complex social and cultural aspects of Bangladesh’s digital landscape with creativity, innovation, and cultural competence. Inspira’s initial design proposed engaging popular media personalities and holding uthan baithak (courtyard meeting) sessions and gombhira (traditional musical theater) performances to complement a phased online campaign that would build users’ cybersecurity skills by scaffolding new information on top of already-built knowledge. However, when these strategies showed need for improvement, Inspira used the minimum viable product (MVP) approach to rapidly iterate on them, and in some cases, pivot entirely from the designs initially proposed to DAI. This flexible approach allowed successful interventions to organically emerge.

-Drove demand among MSME owners and larger Bangladeshi society for cybersecurity services. Due to low awareness of cyber threats among Bangladeshis, demand for cybersecurity services is lacking in the country’s digital landscape. For example, while one-third of MSME owners report having experienced a cyberattack, 62 percent of them do not think that their business is at any risk from such attacks. To bridge this awareness gap, the Inspira team established deep working partnerships with 14 organizations in the Bangladesh e-commerce space, including public-sector actors, financial institutions, and business organizations. Through these collaborations, Inspira has catalyzed demand for cybersecurity upskilling in the country: a handful of these partners have expressed a willingness to pay for additional tailored cybersecurity training content from Inspira for their members and staff. Meanwhile, to meet individual entrepreneurs’ demand for cybersecurity services, Inspira collaborated with the Dhaka-based cybersecurity firm Backdoor Private Ltd. to launch a one-stop service desk (OSD) that accepts cybersecurity-related queries 24/7. Within its first six months of operation, the OSD received 393 queries and 30 cybersecurity incident reports—24 of which were resolved, a resolution rate nearly double that of relevant Bangladeshi regulatory authorities. Further, post-buy-in interviews and anecdotal data suggest that OSD users trust the service more than cyber law enforcement officials.

This study aims to identify robust outcomes that resulted from the South Asia Regional Digital Initiative buy-in’s Inspira activity.

You can also access this accompanying slide deck with key outcomes from the report.

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