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Stan Byers, Cybersecurity Team Lead at USAID, joins VIA for largest VIA Visionaries event

As devoted VIA Visionaries followers know, each remarkable guest shares a common mission with VIA: making our communities cleaner, safer, and more equitable. Stan Byers, Cybersecurity Team Lead at USAID, is no exception.

Stan plays a critical role at USAID, a U.S. government agency responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance. In his role, Stan helps protect the most vulnerable communities against cyber threats. Given the importance of his work helping others, we were grateful to have the opportunity to meet in person alongside the VIA team and our audience members around the globe.

With 30 full minutes of engaging conversation in front of the largest in-person audience to date, Colin and Stan covered critical topics ranging from Stan’s background, stories from the field in Afghanistan and South Sudan, and why cybersecurity is a high priority for development and humanitarian aid organizations.

Before we get into the details, let’s give you, our readers, a quick snapshot of Stan’s remarkable career, so you can get to know him, too:

Stan and the VIA team spent some time chatting about the benefits of decentralization before the VIA Visionaries livestream.

Throughout his incredible career, Stan has made monumental strides in the realm of cybersecurity, emphasizing its importance in international security, policy, and technology. Currently, Stan is the Cybersecurity Team Lead at USAID. Leading a driven team of fellow cybersecurity experts for the last three years, Stan’s team is working with the White House, State Department, and the Department of Defense on how they think about cybersecurity as part of national digital transformation.

Before Stan was asked to join USAID to build the Cybersecurity Team, Stan worked at EY, handling geopolitical and economic aspects of cybersecurity while concurrently staying updated on the latest technology. In addition, he was a resident at TED in 2017. Stan was also instrumental in the Power Africa Presidential Initiative at USAID, providing a path for private investments and economic growth in Africa. His diverse experience, coupled with his ability to analyze and devise strategic cybersecurity initiatives, firmly positions him as a prominent leader in the cybersecurity space, specifically for the greater good.

Of all the memorable quotes and moments during the chat, it was when Colin asked Stan, “We first met at a Harvard conference related to blockchain and web3 technologies. Why are you interested in web3 technologies?” that we thought our readers would find as interesting as we did:

“I was there because I think this is something we need to be paying more attention to. We tend to spend a lot of time looking at AI and mobile money applications and a bunch of other things which are all incredible. But, not as much on how we can really use web3 and this decentralized approach. I think there is some real promise there.

In particular, what I’m seeing more and more, is that we need to rethink how we do data management quickly. From a development and humanitarian perspective, we work in a lot of places around the world. People shouldn’t think that these parts of the world that I’m talking about are kind of the anomaly, “oh the poor, destitute, unstable parts of the world.” Where we live right now is the anomaly. If you want to talk about using technology to improve the world, you have to talk about the low and middle income countries of the world where 85% of the world lives. This is not the norm, Somerville is not the norm.”

To hear Stan’s full response and how he thinks web3 and decentralization can help 85% of the world, watch from the 25:00 minute mark. Colin also comments that Stan’s response brings home the point of trust when it comes to a decentralized approach to data.

If you are enjoying this year’s VIA Visionaries guest speakers, we’ve got a treat for you: this summer we are bringing you a solid line-up of speakers ranging from image verification to sustainability. Follow along on VIA’s website and social media (LinkedIn, X, Instagram, Threads) for the latest.