Nigeria’s telecoms regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), is worried about the increasing exposure of children to cyber abuses in Nigeria as internet gains grounds with more than 164 million Nigerians connected to mobile devices.
To address the problem, the regulator is planning a national awareness campaign to sensitise the Nigerian child and parents with other stakeholders on the safe use of the internet.
According to the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, while making an opening remark at a joint workshop on child online protection this week in Abuja, the internet has become an indispensable element of everyday life and children are not excluded but particularly vulnerable to its disadvantages because young persons constitute the largest users of the internet.
It behooves, therefore, on the regulator to adopt proactive measures at resolving some of the online challenges as they affect young children.
Organised by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in collaboration with the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI), the training arm of the NCC established in 2004, the workshop is aimed at raising awareness on a growing danger that could undermine the country’s ability to fully leverage internet resource for positively.
The DBI is also an ITU Centre of Excellence to bridge the skills gap in the Nigerian telecom sector.
Ubiquitous internet is vista for abuses
“As a result of the ubiquitous availability of internet access in homes, schools, libraries, mobile phones and so on, children are increasingly becoming involved in the use of new technological applications and taking advantage of the opportunity they provide for learning, research, and entertainment,” said Danbatta.
He added that as a follow-up to several initial efforts made in adopting the ITU guidelines on Child Online Protection, the NCC developed a draft Nigerian Child Online Protection Policy (NCOPP).
According to the regulator, the NCOPP will be further reviewed taking into consideration the evolving global technology and practices in the cyber space as well as develop the revised National Child Online Protection document which will comprise of a Policy, Strategy and Action Plan.
The NCC will use the national campaign to enhance online safety so that Nigerian children can competitively engage one another in productive and guided interactions, enable the provision of a safe and secured cyber space for Nigerian digital citizens, and also promote positive use and experience from the internet for children and young people, said the NCC’s boss.
In addition, the initiative will provide regional advocacy and awareness for Nigerian Child Online Protection Policy and recommend safety measures.
He added that the sensitisation campaign will provide the framework to drive regional awareness incorporating local languages and cultural norms; share knowledge and experience while facilitating international strategic partnerships to define and implement concrete initiatives as well as increase the understanding of child online safety among government, industry, educators and civil society organisations.
Galvanising against online pitfalls
“Understanding how to traverse the potential pitfalls online and shield our children from cybercrime are critical skills today, much less for the future workforce. To be successful in securing future success, government, regulators, service providers, and parent teachers associations need to work together to create the much-needed controls, awareness, and education for the protection of our children online,” said General Manager, Planning and Customer Management, MTN Nigeria, Odunayo Sanya.
MTN, Nigeria’s leading mobile operator is a major partner in organising the sesnsitisation workshop.
Sanya said it was important to balance the benefits of the internet with pitfalls even as she advised parents, regulators, service providers and government to work collaborative to achieve the desired results.
“With what NCC and its partners are doing, it is possible for Nigeria to save, at least, 16 million Nigerians children from being defiled or otherwise abused offline and in the cyberspace,” said Grace Ketefe, a representative of the CeCe Yara Foundation set up for the protection of children in the north of Nigeria.