SID 2018: Ghana Steps Up Efforts to Protect Its Children Online

Panel discussion on child online protection in Accra to mark SID 2018

Accra, February 6, 2018//- In order to effectively coordinate child online safety issues across the country, a Child Online Protection Unit is being set up by the government as part of Ghana’s National Cyber Security Centre.

The unit when set up would engage with stakeholders such as UNICEF, J Initiative, a leading child centred NGO and an advocator of child online protection in Ghana and Africa, telecoms operators, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, among others to engage in activities to protect children on the internet.

The Cyber Security Advisor to the Ministry of Communications, Albert Antwi Boasiako  disclosed this in a speech read for the sector minister, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful at a forum in Accra to mark Safer Internet Day (SID) 2018.

“The unit will operate a call centre in addition to an online reporting portal to facilitate reporting on issues involving safety of children on the internet. Awareness creation will also form an integral component of the unit’s activities”, she added.

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful noted that as internet access becomes more accessible, violence against children takes on new dimensions with deeply damaging and life-altering consequences. Ghana is more than determined to protect its children from being harmed on the internet hence the government’s decision to set up the unit, according to her.

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful added: “The J Initiative has presented a paper on the need for Ghana to ratify the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse also known as Lanzarote Convention.

This proposal is currently being studied by the National Cyber Security Secretariat as part of the ministry’s wider initiatives on child online protection”.

“Ghana’s internet usage is growing and there are incidents that reveal that cyber security is an area to pay attention to”.

Recent studies have indicated that there are 10 million internet users in Ghana. Out of this, five million are active on social media.

Similarly, a recent study conducted by UNICEF in November 2017 on Children Online-Opportunities, Risks and Safety revealed that majority of young internet users start using the internet at the age of 12 with most children using the internet at least every week, though infrequently.

In a policy brief produced by Media Foundation for West Africa in June 2017 on Cyber Security in Ghana Key Issues and Challenges, 14 cases of child online incidents were reported. In addition to this,  there were concerns about widespread use of internet pornography among children and juveniles.

“These evidences indicate that a lot is required to make our internet safety and secure for users in Ghana”, Mrs Owusu-Ekuful maintained.

Touching on the theme of this year’s SID 2018 which is ‘Create, Connect and Share Respect: A Better Internet Starts with You’, the emphasis on the individual responsibility underscores the fact that as individuals we shape the internet, he said.

“Our inactions and actions influence the kind of environment that the internet presents. The key message of SID is for all of us to share respect and remember that other users are affected by how we create and connect on the internet”.

The day which is celebrated in 130 countries in Ghana also creates a learning space for users to reflect on the use of the internet and technology.

The annual Safer Internet Day is being spearheaded by the J Initiative and supported by the Ministry of Communications and other partners to create awareness on the internet and child online protection.

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful therefore commended the organisers of this year’s event especially J Initiative for being at the forefront of child online protection activities in the country.

“Let’s all join other Safer Internet Day promoters across the globe to help create a better internet on Tuesday, 6 February 2018 and throughout the year. A better internet starts with you”, she stated.

Executive Director of the J Initiative, Mrs Awo Aidam Amenyah being interviewed at the forum

In her welcome address, the Executive Director of the J Initiative, Mrs Awo Aidam Amenyah noted: “Over all, SID 2018 celebrations today put a higher demand on all stakeholders to do our best in protecting our future generations within the cyber space by deliberately designing programmes which could help them become good digital citizens first for their families, then modern Ghana and the world at large”.

To this end, she said: “Events are taking place in all the ten regions and we encourage opinion leaders, policy makers, teachers, parents, children etc take part in the discussions in the 10 regions of the country”.

The Director at the Department of Children of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Madam Helena Obeng Asamoah revealed that the ministry is teaming with other stakeholders to train children on how to use the internet.

She advised parents to ensure that the children are protected online and offline, stressing that the children the future leaders of the country.

The Chairman of the National Cyber Steering Committee, Mike Gizo added: “Let’s join the cry to make this child online protection programme a success”.

He therefore advised the media to double their reportage child online protection issues to enable message of the programme sink deep.

Meanwhile, at the forum’s panel discussion moderated by Anis Haffar, a renowned educationist and founder of the GATE Institute, the panelists appealed to parents to pay greater attention to their children’s online activities.

Headmistress of the St. Maurice Roman Catholic Junior High School, La in Accra, Madam Evelyn Manu who was the panelists, advised the adults and children to be careful about the things they put on the internet.

“Don’t put anything on the internet that will be used against you in the future”, she admonished.

Mr Manu however appealed to the young people especially students to take advantage of the internet to broaden their knowledge and horizons.

Another panelist, Carl Sackey , President of ISACA Accra Chapter,  a chapter of the  worldwide association of information security (IS) governance professionals agreed that, “the internet is one of the best tools for learning. It makes you at par with the rest of the world”.

He also used the opportunity to advise children not to share videos and content that are not educative, stressing: “Let’s be responsible in sharing content”.

Contributing to the discussion, the Head of Cybercrime at the Ghana Police Service, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Dr Herbert Gustav Yankson urged Ghanaians to be circumspect about all the things they do online.

Although the police and other law enforcement bodies are there to protect you, individuals should also take their personal protection very serious, he emphasised.

Also contribution to the discussion, the Executive Director of the Data Protection Commission (DPC), Madam Patricia Adusei-Poku, said with the setting up of the commission companies could not toil with people’s information online.

On his part, the Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Telecommunications Chamber, Ken Asigbey challenged Ghanaians and Africans at large to strive to create content and not consumers. He stated: “We need to create content to enable us compete in the global space”.

The participants at the day’s forum including students of Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), students of St. Maurice Roman Catholic Junior High School, La and pupils of Achimota Basic School were given the opportunity to ask the five-member panelist questions.

By Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh, African Eye Report

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