NGO Series: Bridges to Development

Alexis ALLEY

In the scope of humanitarian efforts, where the challenges are as diverse as they are daunting, the role of technology and cybersecurity in amplifying impact cannot be overstated. Bridges to Development (Bridges), a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing opportunities for global and local communities to overcome health and development barriers, started its operations in 2018. Bridges has made significant contributions across the globe through their use of technology. To find out more about Bridges to Development and their work, please visit or contact [email protected]. Join us as we explore how technology underpins Bridges’ work to strengthen global health.

Bridges was established by a small team with rich experience working in some of the largest international development organizations. Bridges work is truly global with risks inherent to a team needing to work collaboratively and move resources between partners in multiple countries. The founders are located in the USA and Switzerland, but their work is driven through partnerships across low- and middle-income countries, and thus technology has played an essential role from the start, allowing them to collaborate effectively in a virtual space.

To be effective in their global health and development mission, Bridges, with the support and guidance of the CyberPeace Institute, has invested time and energy into creating systems and approaches that allow them to collaborate effectively online; safeguard files and financial systems from phishing and other cyber-attacks; and especially keep data regarding the people reached with their projects or donors secure.

Some examples of the systems and processes that Bridges has established include:

  • Regular orientation and onboarding of existing and new staff and interns to cybersecurity
  • Culture of sharing on group messaging platforms when a person receives a phishing email so other staff can be on alert
  • Culture of confirming through a second channel (e.g. text message) with the management team anytime staff/interns receive emails or communications that are outside the usual
  • Promoting robust security systems, like the use of password software and dual-factor authentication
  • Use of VPNs while traveling and off home or work networks
  • Evaluation and testing of systems by CyberPeace
  • System in place to document and learn from cyberattacks including elevating events of significance to the Bridges Board of Directors

These measures are critical to the functioning of Bridges, as they, like many other companies and organizations, are regularly targeted for phishing and other cyber-attacks. Time and funds lost to cyber-attacks directly impact the ability of Bridges to assist communities addressing global health and development challenges.

How the digital systems enable Bridges to work towards their mission

Through such processes, Bridges is better positioned to deliver on its work. For example:

  • In their role as the Secretariat for the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030) from 2000-2024, they helped coordinate efforts by international partners, such as WHO and UNICEF, as they worked with countries to strengthen immunization programs. Bridges’ role required trustworthy and secure IT systems for engaging with and on behalf of this global partnership, on sensitive topics and across regions of the world.
  • Bridges leads the Pacific Integrated Neglected Tropical Disease Elimination (PINE) Project, funded by Takeda Pharmaceutical’s Global CSR Program. It supports governments in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea (PNG) to eliminate three neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and control two more in parts of their countries. Over the course of the project, Bridges’ support contributed to reaching over 141,611 individuals with treatment in Vanuatu. In 2023, the first Mass Drug Administration (MDA) campaign in PNG targeting these diseases was launched in the West New Britain Province. Such initiatives are critical in the fight against NTDs, showcasing how targeted efforts can yield substantial public health victories. And yet, the success of the collaboration has been premised on secure, reliable systems for connectivity, collaboration, and data sharing between the countries and supporting partners.
  • Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS) is a hidden parasitic disease affecting over 50 million women and girls in Africa. Through the launch of the FGS Integration Group (FIG), an innovative coalition aimed at integrating identification and treatment of FGS within sexual and reproductive health policies and programs, Bridges works with partners in Africa, Europe, and the US to increase awareness, train thousands of health professionals through digital, peer-learning approaches, reduce stigma and mobilize commitment to address this disease. This initiative represents a significant step forward in bridging gaps across sectors to improve healthcare access for women and girls, illustrating the potential of collaborative efforts in addressing complex health challenges.
  • Intestinal worms infect an estimated 1.5 billion people worldwide, impacting the educational progress of children and, the work of adults and undermining the progress of communities. Bridges is a member of the STOP2023 Consortium which is funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme through the Global Health EDCTP3 Joint Undertaking and the Swiss Confederation through the State Secretariat for Education, Research, and Innovation. The consortium is implementing a series of clinical trials in Ghana and Kenya to develop the first new, more efficient treatment for intestinal worms in decades. Robust cybersecurity by Bridges is critical to ensure that sensitive data such as about study participants, is protected according to international ethical standards. Bridges’ engagement with CyberPeace Institute helps it be confident it treats such data accordingly.

As we spotlight Bridges to Development in the CyberPeace Institute’s NGO Series, we celebrate the organization’s use of technology and a culture attuned to cybersecurity to enable it to work towards its mission and protect the communities it serves. Bridges’ achievements underscore the importance of secure digital systems and constant vigilance in the humanitarian sector, demonstrating how strategic use of digital tools complemented with regular, positive reinforcement of behaviors to decrease cyber-risks, can enhance the effectiveness and reach of development initiatives. In a world increasingly dependent on digital infrastructure, the work of organizations like Bridges is a powerful reminder of the potential to leverage technology for the greater good, advancing the well-being of communities around the globe. As a small and nimble organization with few staff members but with high needs for cybersecurity, Bridges is pleased to have found a supportive complementary partner in the CyberPeace Institute and greatly values the direction and support from them in establishing secure systems and processes and helping prevent cyber incidents.

© Copyright 2023: The concepts and information contained in this document are the property of the CyberPeace Institute, an independent non-governmental organization headquartered in Geneva, unless indicated otherwise from time to time throughout the document. This document may be reproduced, in whole or in part, provided that the CyberPeace Institute is referenced as author and copyright holder.


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