Foundation Projects

Switch!: Fostering diversity in the Internet industry in South East Asia

APNIC Foundation

There is still a big disparity in the workforce between men employed in technical roles vs women and gender diverse professionals. The APNIC Foundation identified that although there are many initiatives that support women and girls to study STEM careers or pursue leadership roles, there was a need to provide concrete and actionable support for women and gender diverse people, already employed in technical roles in the industry, that had limited access to professional development opportunities that were matched to their personal development, availability, capacity and aspirations.

Through consultations with project participants and some of their employers, the following scenarios were identified:

  1. Most professional development opportunities provided by employers, were structured addressing their short-term organizational needs, and in most cases didn’t consider pathways for career development.
  2. When women and gender diverse leaders with a strong technical background were promoted to management, their vacancies were filled without considering retaining or improving the limited diversity in those teams as part of succession planning/recruitment.
  3. The high cost of professional certifications, the time required for preparation and the limited support available were clear barriers for technical skills development.

The APNIC Foundation established Switch! to fill those gaps and respond to the individual needs of highly motivated women and gender diverse people in the industry so that they can positively and proactively contribute to the development of the industry, as they define their own goals and receive tailored support to achieve them.

Switch! 2024

The 2024 group consists of 25 women or gender diverse people from each of the six participating economies, for a total of 150 participants.

An online session was held on 11 April to welcome the 2024 group. Based on lessons learned and looking at better ways to understand the impact of the support received, the project team developed a data collection app that facilitates the recording and analysis of the support provided.

A screenshot from the welcome event
A screenshot from the welcome event

Switch! 2022-2023

A total of 176 participants participated in this group. These included 162 women and 14 gender diverse people.

  • Cambodia: 26
  • Laos 25
  • Philippines: 35
  • Thailand: 34
  • Timor-Leste: 27
  • Viet Nam: 29

Across the 2,075 activities approved in their professional development plans, 85% were reported as completed, with an average of 12 professional development requests completed per active participant, including training, exams fees, study material, English proficiency, research support, coaching and participation in technical community engagements.

SWITCH SEA 2020-2022

A total of 74 participants were supported, including three gender diverse people.

  • Cambodia: 10
  • Philippines: 25
  • Thailand: 19
  • Viet Nam: 20

The 74 participants enrolled in 380 courses as well as receiving received 236 certifications from training providers and 53 certificates of achievement. Participants also recorded attendance to 297 mentoring opportunities. More information available on the SWITCH SEA project page.


In May 2020, the APNIC Foundation received a grant from the Government of Australia to improve the knowledge, skills and confidence of women and gender diverse technical staff working on Internet network operations and security in Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. This project was completed in early 2022.

Following the completion of the project, the Foundation secured an increased funding contribution to the initiative from the Asia Pacific Internet Development Trust, and was rebranded. The additional funding allowed for the expansion of the project to Lao PDR and Timor Leste. At the end of its first year as Switch!, the number of participants more than doubled from 74 before the relaunch to 161 under Switch!

Participants work closely with a national coordinator assigned to each economy. They work collaboratively around regional activities and are supported by members of the Foundation team and a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) Advisor.

You can discover activities in each economy below:

The icon for Switch! Cambodia
The icon for Switch! Laos
The icon for Switch! Philippines
The icon for Switch! Thailand
The icon for Switch! Timor Leste
The icon for Switch! Viet Nam

Participants work closely with a national coordinator assigned to each economy. This collaboration allows participants to:

  • Improve their research, management and public speaking capabilities;
  • Share their technical knowledge, operational expertise and advice with the technical community at events and publications for local, regional and international participants; and
  • Join in protecting an open, free and secure Internet in their areas.
A picture from the 2023 National Event in Cambodia.
A picture from the 2023 National Event in Cambodia.
Switch! National Coordinators and Foundation staff at the APNIC 57 conference in Bangkok, Thailand in March 2024.
Switch! National Coordinators and Foundation staff at the APNIC 57 conference in Bangkok, Thailand in March 2024.

In the beginning, as the project took place during the pandemic, the activities and supported provided was conducted entirely online. That support allowed many of the participants to remain engaged during the extended lockdown periods in the economies. As restrictions eased, the national coordinators organized Switch! national events held in each of the six economies as well as other community engagement and networking opportunities. At these events, participants come together, network, and share their stories of professional and personal development.

This is a multi-year activity. For budget information, see the relevant annual reports.