Creating a Safer Internet Space for the children

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Today is a special today in the Digital World. We take time to celebrate the Safer Internet Day (SID), a day organized on the second day of the second week of February to remind us of the need to make the internet a safe space for each one of us but especially our children.

This year’s celebrations are under the theme, Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you. It is a call to action for every stakeholder to play their part in creating a better internet for everyone, in particular the young children.

This message resonates at the core of the National Information Authority Uganda (NITA-U) as a driver of the Digital Revolution. NITA-U has played a major role in creating awareness in this area with special emphasis on Child Online Safety.

We have the youngest population in the world, with 77% Ugandans under 30 years of age. Currently 21,227,651 Ugandan use internet. These numbers are expected to grow with continued interventions by the Government through the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and National Guidance.

With the current surge in access to mobile phones and technology, the need to safe guard the internet has never been greater for Uganda

The issues

There is no doubt that over the years, advance in Information Technology has been responsible for positively impacting our lives. The internet has become the most resourceful space known to man, as limitless information is shared.  Amidst this great advancement lies dangers like child online sexual abuse and cyber bullying.

Interventions

In 2015, the Government of Uganda through NITA-U and Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) launched portal, https://report.nita.go.ug/ug for Ugandan citizens to report child sexual abuse images and videos, the first initiative of its kind in Africa.

James Saka, the Executive Director NITA-U says that, ‘’ It is true that uptake of ICT is growing at a great speed. NITA-U for example is offering over 281 free Wi-Fi hotspots in Kampala and Entebbe after working hours and all day on weekends. The National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI), an optical fiber cable, is now connected to 33 major towns and we are making further connections.  Amidst such advancements there is a rise of those that have malicious intentions, determined to compromise the progress. The Online Child Sexual Abuse Reporting Portal enables us as a country contribute to making the internet a safer place” 

In addition, the National Information Technology Authority – Uganda (NITA-U) in collaboration with the Internet Society Uganda Chapter led to the development of an Online Safety Education Toolkit as a useful and convenient learning resource for children and youth on how best to stay safe online in their daily use of the internet.

“The Toolkit is a practical take-home guide for children and youth to help them evade the risks that come with navigating the internet’’, explained Arnold Mangeni, the director Information Security at (NITA-U)

In addition, a multi-sectoral working group on Child Online Protection has been put in place centered at the Ministry of Internal Affairs with the main purpose of educating all categories of internet users including children on responsible use of the internet.

Also, The Government of Uganda addressed child protection through the establishment of the Computer Misuse Act (2011) that clearly criminalizes child online sexual exploitation. The Act criminalizes among others, any acts including the development, sharing, transmission or storage of child sexual abuse material.

The influence of the internet and social media on our society is growing stronger every day.  With immeasurable advantages, it comes with some risks. It begins with each one of us to take measures to protect ourselves and our communities beginning with the children.