In case you didn't know, today is Safer Internet Day, an occasion celebrated globally through conversations about the safe, responsible and positive use of technology, with a focus on a subject that affects many but few ever discuss - how to stay safe online.
This year, various public sector agencies and non-governmental organisations from across Africa have partnered with Facebook to mark the 2017 Safer Internet Day under the rallying call “Be the change: Unite for a better Internet”
The focus this year is to people think about the small steps they can take to stay safe online, and the initiative is coordinated by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission.
In Africa, Facebook is working with partners such as Watoto Watch in Kenya, the International Center for Leadership Development and the Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre in Nigeria, South Africa’s Film and Publication Board, the JOXAfrica Association in Senegal, Tech Women Zimbabwe and the Ghana Internet Safety Foundation, to educate communities and address the needs of vulnerable people.
To mark the occasion, Facebook is hosting events in Johannesburg, South Africa and Nairobi, Kenya to promote the importance of online safety to students, teachers, parents and policymakers.
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people who use Facebook. Every day people come to Facebook to connect with people and issues they care about, and they should be able to do so in a safe, secure environment,” says Akua Gyekye, Public Policy Manager Facebook, Africa.
"This is an opportunity", Gyekye adds, "to explore the role we all play in helping to create a better and safer online community. We are proud to work with young people, parents, carers, teachers, social workers, law enforcement, companies, and policymakers to create a better Internet."
There is a real need to make the internet a safer and better place for people across Africa, especially children and the youth, and achieving this needs tools that empower the community to stay in control, support each other during crises in order to stay safe online.
"It is important to have conversations early and often about how inappropriate content on the Internet may affect children,” says Janine Raftopoulos, Manager Communications and Public Education South Africa’s Film & Publications Board (FPB). “Parents, educators, guardians and industry all have a part to play in ensuring that children understand how to stay safe online.”
“The Internet brings offers great opportunities for Kenya’s youth and children. This year’s Safer Internet Day gives young people the opportunity to voice their views on how to make the internet better,” says Lillian Kariuki, executive director at Watoto Watch Network.
As the various stakeholders have pointed out, there is a real need to make the internet a safer and better place for people across Africa, especially children and the youth. Achieving this needs tools that empower the community to stay in control, support each other during crises in order to stay safe online.
“The 2017 theme for the Safer Internet Day is ‘Be the change: unite for a better internet’, which resonates strongly with the Federal Government of Nigeria’s campaign, ‘The change begins with me’,” says Adeyemi Odutola, Communications Officer at Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC). “We are excited to partner with Facebook to host a day of workshops and fun activities for secondary students, where they will learn how to navigate the Internet confidently and safely.”
"As more Zimbabwean women and girls go online to take advantage of the immense opportunities the internet offers", Tech Women Zimbabwe Founder Aretha Mare explains, "they empower themselves with knowledge, education and connections with others. We are determined to break down barriers to the Internet for women and girls so they can maximise the benefits of the Internet - and that includes tackling challenges such as online harassment and bullying."
Emmanuel Adinkrah, Co-Founder and CEO of Ghana Internet Safety Foundation, is particularly grateful for the support and partnerships that this initiative has created. "It is heartening", he says, "to hear about the ways young people are using technology to take positive action online to empower each other and spread kindness. We want to encourage them to keep building a better internet for all."