Shilpa Sayura Foundation Shilpa Sayura Foundation, No 131, Daulagala Road, PilImatalawa
Project Title NextGen Girls - Internet Security Ambassadors
Amount Awarded USD 32,764
Dates covered by this report: 2018-10-01 to 2019-10-31
Report submission date 2019-11-11
Economies where project was implemented Sri Lanka
Project leader name
Poornima Meegammana
Project Team
Rameela Azeez
Samanmalee Swarnalatha
Yamuna Rathnayake
Partner organization ISOC Sri Lanka Chapter, Dialog Ideamart, Computer Society of Sri Lanka

Project Summary

The NextGen Girls initiative included creating an IoT and Security Curriculum including Internet governance, Privacy, IPV6, IoT, Networking, Information Security and open web technologies and training 40 female University students to become Internet Security Educators. They in turn, trained 160 of their peers, and make awareness to 800 high school girls in IoT safety. The training was delivered through 8 workshops at 4 universities, 24 live online training sessions, 2 meetups and an IoT hackathon among girls. The main outcome of the NextGen Girls project is the development of a sustainable network of women specializing in IoT and security, advocating IoT safety and enable support for victims while increasing women participation in IoT and Security field. In the long term, the NextGen Girls community will support women to show leadership in the emerging IoT industry, increase safety and advancement of women. Shilpa Sayura Partners AlgoHack community, Google education, Computer Society and ISOC Sri Lanka worked together to implement NextGen Girls initiative. NextGen Girls aims to scale up the project "Respect Girls on Internet" which was awarded the ISOC 25 Under 25 Award and received an ISOC Beyond The Net Community Grant. The project developed a network of university and high school girls studying ICT. The goal of the project is to support young women professional development to pursue emerging IoT security careers, that in turn will help build safer and secure IoT environment at homes, workplaces and communities. The emergence of pocket-sized computing devices, capable of electronic switching, sensing, controlling equipment, video, and audio has created a new paradigm shift in home automation, business, agriculture, transport, environmental technologies. IoT systems use internet to interconnect. Unsecure home uses of IoT can endanger safety and breach privacy of individuals and families. Women are particularly vulnerable as IoT misuse has facilitated revenge porn incidents, harassment, data breach, as well as scams. Online safety activitists recommend that women seek suppor from other women in the event of IoT breach, as seeking support from a male technician can pose additional risks. The project proposed approach is to develop IoT and security skills among women to safeguard their homes, workplaces, and community from IoT breaches. Women becoming IoT security experts immensely contributes to gender equality, diversity, and growth in female participation in the IoT economy.

Table of contents

Background and Justification

Image shows three young women working on some electrical circuit technology.

Shilpa Sayura and partners Computer Society of Sri Lanka and ISOC Sri Lanka engaged in digital development and innovation, believe increasing women in technology sector as essential to fulfill the needs of digital development. Although 41.2% females represent computer science students in universities, less than 8% women enter advanced ICT careers where most girls seek other careers due to lack of industry skills. Software Engineering, Networking and Information Security jobs are dominated by male.
According to Harvard University Report, over 26 of billion of Internet connected IoT devices in 2020 shall demand large number IoT expertise for home automation, shop floors to manufacturing in business. SLASSCOM estimates Sri Lanka ICT employment needs by 2022 as 375,000, require additional human resource, where encouraging women to pursue ICT careers a national strategy. We see emerging IoT and security field as a strategic career development area for women. The smallness, learning ease, ability to work from home, innovation possibilities, island-wide demand being created can help empower women into new technology careers. A challenge we face is reaching females with IoT enthusiasm. Based on our research we found Kelaniya, Rajarata,Sabaragamuwa, Badulla university girls distant from capital are in need for skills development that industry demands for their internships and jobs placements. The target community of female university students coming from various parts of the island are strategically important for advocacy for emerging IoT security and safety issues. Therefore our main reasons are increasing females entering advanced ICT careers, developing of a women community to address IoT security and safety issues of women and enhancing gender equality on digital development through innovation.

Project Implementation

Women in technology sector as essential to fulfil the needs of digital Shilpa Sayura and partners Computer Society of Sri Lanka and ISOC Sri Lanka engaged in digital development and innovation, believe increasing development. Although 41.2% females represent computer science students
in universities,  Less than 8% women enter advanced ICT careers as most girls seek other careers due to lack of industry skills dominated by male. Sri Lanka becoming a hub for IoT and information security requires additional human resources. NextGen project encourage women to pursue emerging IoT and security field as a strategic career development area for women. Our target community of female university students coming from various parts of the island are strategically important group for emerging IoT security and safety issues.

NextGen an upscaling of Respect Girls on Internet project funded by Internet Society, aims to train, resource and engage university girls in IoT, security and safety education for enhancing gender equality on digital development. in Sri Lanka.  The activities include creating a learning and support community, conducting training, providing equipment and engaging them in a hackathon to develop IoT and Information security skills and products for advancement.

We partnered with Dialog Ideamart, mobile & IoT platform, Internet Society Sri Lanka Chapter and community of industry professionals from AlgoHack, IoT and Ethical Hacking community. The project designed by university girls engaged in Girls in Technology project, communicating online with industry professionals.

60 female and 40 male university students took part in the first workshop which introduced Linux, Raspberry Pi and IoT marketplace. The second workshop Was Step into IoT. This workshop included hands-on session on  IoT with Arduino / Esp32/ nb IoT with, Raspberry pi with python IoT experiments and Ideamart IoT portal test drive. The third workshop was focused on IoT Design and Security With sessions on Design thinking and  IoT Security. Between the main workshops, they engaged in the online learning program. 

Image shows two women at a laptop.
Image shows three women working on laptops and circuits.

Resulting from the projects training sessions university students participated in an IoT solutions hackathon supported by Dialog Ideamart.  Additionally, based on a suggestion by Ideamart agriculture, home, business and environment IoT solutions are being designed by the trained students to take part in an IoT entrepreneurship hackathon to present their work to industry experts and investors to improve their potential for IoT security employment and internships. This Hackathon is set to be held in January 2020.

NextGen chose participants in an open call, from 148 applications received, they were allocated seats by university addressing gender equality, diversity and inclusion. The original target of 60 girls expanded by partnering with Dialog Ideamart who is a beneficiary of IoT industry skills development.  

As advocacy nextgen took part in National innovation exhibition and promotion campaign using social networks done.

NextGen Also Partnered up with Girls In Technology in Shilpa Sena Exhibitions to create awareness about IoT and IoT Security as an advocacy event.

In Partnership with SLIIT Cyber Security Community, Nextgen organized Omega CTF: Real Web Hacking Competition. The Omega CTF (Capture the Flag) tournament was a distributed, wide-area security tournament. The competitors in teams had to find vulnerabilities and hack a real-world web application. And the tournament was followed by a training session on how to hack given web. 

Using the Facebook page, Blog and chat group NextGen members have built an interactive community hoping to learn and work together also bring new members through peer to peer training.  

A management group formed by the leading members of the project are currently planning to upscale the project in 2020 with partners. 

The project team included some of the participants, who engaged in awareness and coordination. Project administered by project team involving 5 key members for advocacy, training, event management and content. The project communicated with participants through a website and Facebook page and a chat Group. The project procured a laptop and 60 Raspberry Pi and IoT kits to provide to participants to train themselves and build IoT solutions for the hackathon.

In order to sustain the project, we empowered participants to take leadership roles in design, planning and delivery of training. The partnership created with Dialog Ideamart enabled scaling up to 100 university students. The project helped developed advanced IoT and Information security skills in our organization and community of professionals contributing. NextGen since inception last October 2018, has received high demand from University students and commended by ICT industry organizations.

A challenge we faced is reaching females with IoT enthusiasm. Based on our research we found Kelaniya, Rajarata, Sabaragamuwa, Badulla university girls distant from the capital are in need of skills development that industry demands their internships and jobs placements. 

Another challenge we faced was the terrorist attacks in April. With the situation in the country, it was difficult to get access to schools. However, with the partnership with Girls in Technology, a project by ISOC Sri Lanka chapter we were able to use schools Girls in Technology was already working with. Also after the incident, the project was delayed two months due to security risks. During this time we continued to hold the online session and keep the participants engaged. 

Image shows a woman with a circuit board attached to a computer with wires.

Project Evaluation

NextGen project achieved its rooting in community, by developing a participating community and engage them in Linux and IoT training. Awareness made among universities and community on the disparity of women in IoT and Information security careers. The project developed a sustainable partnership with mobile and IoT platform for sustainability. The feedback from beneficiaries showed their inspiration and eager to continue to advanced levels. The project achieved bringing participants from multiple state and private universities, included diverse gender, geography, skill levels, ethnic and social classes. NextGen initiated ecosystem engaging community, providing content, equipment and engagement service, that is scalable to future advancements and replicable.  

Image shows a group of over 50 people posing for a photograph.

Nextgen help inspires and increases women choosing advanced IoT and information security careers. We engage them online and practical learning workshops and provide simplified learning material. We need to provide additional mentors and activity time for making learning easy for girls. With NextGen we developed the capacity of Shilpa Sayura Foundation to train university students in industrial skills is a remarkable achievement for us. We were able to bring Dialog Ideamart as a partner were certain aspects of project design, management and for increasing sustainability and scalability.

The community that was built via Nextgen allowed university students to develop their skills, IoT and security. There are many examples that point out how university students had an impact on their skills.

Rameela Azeez is a Highly talented undergraduate studying on a government scholarship. She found Nextgen platform and used it to empower herself into IoT and information Security using the programs training, resources and support she achieved a 1st class honours degree. She joined a leading university in Sri Lanka as a research engineer and now promoted to the leader of Nextgen and to the board of Shilpa Sayura Foundation. She continues her journey empowering more women into IoT and security. 

Chathni Thilakereathne IT Undergraduate was advised to do multimedia as a speciality with Nextgen she found an interest in IoT and security and became on of the 1st girls in her faculty to specialize in networking and information security. This inspired more girls and build confidence going into IoT and security. 

Another example is Chami Pelawatte a girl from Sir John Kotelawala Defence University had doubts about choosing a path, through Nextgen she found a great interest in IoT. She was one of the first participants experiment with the kit and share it on the group. 

A group of students who were studying  in Technical collage made use of the program to learn IoT and information security which  was not a part of their curriculum to find better job prospectors in the industry,

Also with northern IOT week over 450 girls from war-affected Kilinochchi, Mulankavil and Jaffna were able to experience IoT programming for the first time in their life through the Nextgen initiative. Over 100 university student was given a comprehensive equipment kit for prototyping IoT solution for their project work. Most of them don't have access to this equipment in Universities.

Image shows three girls in school uniforms working together.
Image shows two girls in school uniforms working together.

The project changed the perspective and attitudes of girls towards electronics, hardware, networking and security providing them structured learning model strengthened by the peer to peer development in small teams.

Providing take-home shareable equipment kit increased the enthusiasm of girls to experiment and explore new ideas by girls who were not used to doing such things. 
Creating self-learning, peer to peer learning, instructor-led learning and mentoring blended model in local language with digital content increased the learning absorption, retention and application. Rather than isolating women in tech training programs including men also in the program helped better knowledge sharing, respect, collaboratively working to reach a common goal irrespective of gender differences. As the programs were conducted outside their universities. Which are their comfort zones were differences exist. Coming to a totally new place with a new approach to learning and new challengers helped to develop inter uni relationships which went beyond disparities enabling possible future ventures.

IndicatorsBaselineProject activities related to indicatorOutputs and outcomesStatus
How do you measure project progress, linked to the your objectives and the information reported on the Implementation and Dissemination sections of this report.Refers to the initial situation when the projects haven’t started yet, and the results and effects are not visible over the beneficiary population.Refer to how the project has been advancing in achieving the indicator at the moment the report is presented. Please include dates.We understand change is part of implementing a project. It is very important to document the decision making process behind changes that affect project implementation in relation with the proposal that was originally approved.Indicate the dates when the activity was started. Is the activity ongoing or has been completed? If it has been completed add the completion dates.
Curriculum for IoT and Security shared freeNot available in local languageCreated a simplified, local curriculum for IoT and SecurityDraft Local Curriculum and content for IoT and SecurityCompleted
Train 50 female university students in IoT and SecurityNot availableConducted 1st workshop of 4Conducted 3 main Workshops covering Linux, IoT , Security and Design for 100 participants including 60 university girls. Between main workshops, they engaged in the online learning program and university training sessions.Completed
60 IoT kits for University Girls TrainingNot availableProcuredProcured 60 IoT kitsCompleted
Women lead community organisation networkAvailable in Small Groups. Lack Resources and EngagementInitiated NextGen community GroupUniversity Girl Leadership Team and members formed on FacebookCompleted
Educating 1000 girls and women in IoT and internet safetyNot Available or LimitedConducted 4 sessions for girls and womenEducated 450 middle and high school girls and their teachersCompleted

Gender Equality and Inclusion

The project empowered female university students with education of industry skills in IoT and Security. It helped bridging gap with peer male students. We also created opportunity for male student participation partnering with Dialog Ideamart for extra resources. Although we target female groups we made our programs open for both women and men and also engaged them knowledge sharing and working. We enabled women leadership in implementing the project hence enabled women participation in industry skills development. Increasing industry level IoT and information security skills among university girls will enhance our skills capital and develop an energetic group of women technologists who would help mitigate disparity in women in advanced technology sector. 57.3% women and 42.7% men participated in program. Among them 85.5% were university students.

Our strategy was to break all participants into  3 to 4 member teams where each team included at least one boy in a team. All the equipment were provided to girls which automatically made those girls leading the project by sharing equipment with the rest of the team. This changed the general practice where the boys in the team leading while girls follow in tech projects.

Gender equality was achieved not providing equal share of resources but providing a collaborative space for equal participation. Thereby the project created an environment for females and males to engage in a positive discussion, idea formulation, solution design and producing something together using everyone's talent and skills to maximize the project outcome. During the process, the greatest thing happened was sharing a vast amount of knowledge leaving the gender differences aside and working as a youth with a common goal in mind.

Project Communication Strategy

Our core target communities were University, middle and high school students. We produced communication material in print and digital forms. Created a website and Facebook page, mailing list and a chat group. We also created a Youtube channel and uploaded training videos. We created a local language tool kit for training participants. We create a sticker to be given to participants. The digital material and google forms shared on Facebook campaign enabled creating awareness and participation. Our communication strategy is reaching multiple layers of society through social networks. We also use traditional forms of communication with print when working with officials. We take part in national and local exhibitions and events to directly meet up with beneficiaries. We use infographics, photos and videos on social networks to inspire our community. 

We also used personal and community networks on Facebook to take the message across.  We reached ethnic communities through local networks and connections. We created material in the local language to bridge language gaps. We published event photos and feedback videos on Facebook page and website and shared with a larger audience.

Image shows a woman with a microphone standing up.
Image shows young people in a classroom with computers.
Image shows three girls working together on a laptop and another girl beside them.

Recommendations and Use of Findings

Partnership building with key stakeholders helps create value and sustainability of the project. Such partnerships need to mutually benefit so that the project shall help serve partner needs.

Involving beneficiaries and partners in design and implementation of project help create an open ecosystem for development. The biggest advantage is ability to create new insights and access to community and resources.

The project creating freely shared learning material and equipment helps future participants beyond project period. 

The skills transferred are valuable to university students for industry placements, hence we are able to showcase direct impact on beneficiary goals. 

We grounded the project foundation on three principles local culture, simplicity and minimalism using digital methods and sharing project ownership with participants. 

Most of communication was done in a simplified informal way.

We also gave the opportunity  to participants build relationships with each other  

We made all project materials digital and used tools file Facebook, Zoom, Blogger and Google Docs to connect and share knowledge with participants

We Identified leading participants and assigned them the higher roles in the project finally transferring project ownership to participants.


NextGen Step into Linux workshop helped me to get rid of the fear of Linux
Chami Palalwatte, Undergraduate, KDU

NextGen IoT is a need to train University students for industry skills.
Roshan Gardiaarachchi, GM, Ideamart

Participant video feedback
Photos of Events


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