Cyber Initiative

A map of internet connected devices

Launched in March 2014, the Hewlett Foundation’s Cyber Initiative seeks to address a broad range of topics that impact the security, stability and resilience of a free and open Internet and connected devices. This includes not only traditional notions of computer and information security, but related policy issues such as Internet governance, net neutrality, encryption, surveillance and privacy.

An initial five-year (2014-2019) commitment of $20 million was supplemented in November 2014 with $45 million for three large grants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.

High-profile data breaches at Sony Pictures, Anthem, Office of Personnel Management—among many others—underscore the magnitude of risks and the importance of developing a more capable field. Policymakers are struggling to make informed decisions about cybersecurity. They freely admit they do not fully understand the complexity of the issues, which makes it nearly impossible to focus on the right problems, balance competing values, or fully grasp the long-term implications of their decisions.

The goal of the Cyber Initiative is to cultivate a field that develops thoughtful, multidisciplinary solutions to complex cyber challenges and catalyzes better policy outcomes. We seek to achieve five outcomes:

  1. Building civil society organizations that take a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to cybersecurity and contribute to a more informed policy debate
  2. Educating and expand the knowledge base of existing decision-makers, and educate and empower an emerging generation of cyber policy experts
  3. Fostering the emergence of a network—composed of experts from industry, government, think tanks, academia, and elsewhere—that builds trust and promotes collaboration
  4. Funding new policy-driven research and thought leadership by experts from diverse professional, political, and intellectual perspectives
  5. Catalyzing additional funding on cyber policy topics from philanthropic, government and private sector sources


Unlike government or industry, we are a neutral player not motivated by profit, politics, or self-interest. We are, moreover, explicitly agnostic as to specific policy outcomes, seeking only to generate robust debate and analysis to stimulate better and strategic cyber policies.

As technologies promise greater access to information, increased efficiency and economic growth, opportunities for expression and new forms of social interaction, people need to be able to trust their digital devices. Societies need to be able to manage serious threats to national security, commerce and civil liberties. The importance of effective cybersecurity policymaking will only grow with time. 

For more information about the the Cyber Initiative, see the Refined Grantmaking Strategy.

Press Releases:
Hewlett Foundation Launches $20 million Cyber Initiative

Hewlett Foundation Announces $45 Million in Grants to MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley to Establish Major New Academic Centers for Cybersecurity Policy Research

Recent Blog posts

Recent Grants

Eli Sugarman, Program Officer
Marlene Zapata, Program Associate