Cyber Initiative: 2014 – 2023

A camouflaged moth symbolizes encrypted data in motion.
CC BY Mariah Jochai


As Internet traffic continues its rapid growth and new technologies affect every aspect of our lives, the decision makers that shape the applicable laws, norms, and policies are struggling to keep up. High profile breaches and widespread malware attacks — from the hacks of Sony Pictures and the Democratic National Committee, to WannaCry and NotPetya, among many others — underscore the magnitude of the risks we face and the need for informed policy that identifies and balances necessary tradeoffs.

The Hewlett Foundation makes grants to proactively define, research, and manage the burgeoning intersections between people and digital technologies. The Cyber Initiative seeks to cultivate a field that develops thoughtful, multidisciplinary solutions to complex cyber challenges and catalyzes better policy outcomes for the benefit of societies around the world.


  • Build a set of core institutions with sufficient depth of expertise to deliver solutions that take competing values and trade-offs to pressing cyber policy challenges seriously.
  • Create a talent pipeline to produce experts with the necessary mix of technical and non-technical skills and knowledge to staff these and other institutions, including government and industry.
  • Support the development of infrastructure to translate and disseminate the work of these institutions that can be understood and used by decision makers and the public.

Ideas + Practice

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The Cyber Initiative is meant to be time-limited. An initial five-year, $20 million-dollar commitment made in March 2014 was supplemented in November 2014 with an additional $45 million in grants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University to establish multidisciplinary cyber policy centers on their campuses. The initiative was renewed in 2017 for an additional five-year period, through 2023, bringing the foundation’s total commitment to this work to more than $132 million over 10 years.

Unlike government or industry, the Hewlett Foundation is a neutral player not motivated by profit, politics, or self-interest. Likewise, we are not responsible for responding to the myriad latest threats and challenges that government and industry must triage each day. We are explicitly agnostic as to specific policy outcomes, seeking only to build a field that can generate robust debate and analysis in order to stimulate better and more strategic cyber policies.

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