Cape Town-based social enterprise development platform, Impact Amplifier, in collaboration with Google’s charitable arm,Google.org, has introduced the African Online Safety Platform (AOSP), to address online safety risks on the continent.
According to a statement, the AOSP is an Africa-wide project that forms part of Impact Amplifier’s broader intention to address online safety issues on the continent at a systemic level.
The platform, launched at an event this week, is intended to address the complexity of understanding what online safety issues are affecting different parts of Africa, how to keep everyone and particularly young people safe online, how to teach online safety formally in schools and at home, funding opportunities for safety innovators, and how to get help if an online crime or other violation has occurred.
The platform provides a repository of research, education content, funding opportunities and ways to seek help if an online crime has occurred.
This comes as the world marked Safer Internet Day (SID) on Tuesday, with increased calls to put children’s rights at the heart of the development and regulation of new digital products.
Celebrated annually on the second day of the second week of the second month, SID was started as an initiative of the EU SafeBorders project in 2004. Now it is celebrated in around 150 countries worldwide, including South Africa.
The annual campaign advocates for a safer and more positive internet for everyone, particularly children.
Speaking at the launch, Impact Amplifier director, Tanner Methvin said: “With over 570 million people having access to the internet in Africa, reflecting just under 47% of the continent’s population, online safety concerns deserve utmost attention.”
“The new platform offers innovative approaches to addressing the complex safety issues the internet presents. These range from unique ways of combating misinformation and disinformation, tracking of cyber criminals, supporting journalists targeted with hate speech and cyber bullying, integrating online safety training into school curriculums, and much more.”
According to Impact Amplifier, the African internet safety ecosystem is hindered by several issues, key among them is the lack of a central repository of all the online safety research that has been conducted on a broad spectrum of issues in Africa.
Furthermore, there is a lack of a central repository for education materials for the plethora of online safety challenges relevant for African users; the absence of legal and social media platform support systems that are less complex and time consuming; as well as the under-funding of the needed interventions.
The AOSP has been built to address all these challenges, it says.
According to WeProtect Global Alliance’s Global Threat Assessment 2023 report, the volume of reported child sexual abuse material has increased by 87% since 2019.
Research conducted by cyber security company Surfshark found that countries with an overall higher standard of digital life often display greater child online safety.
Speaking at the event, Google SA country director, Dr Alistair Mokoena added: “We encourage the relevant parties to use this amazing new education and research resource and to apply to the fund.
“Google remains committed to providing sustained and dedicated support to the online safety ecosystem in Africa, in order to ensure that vulnerable populations are protected from online harms and reap the benefits of the internet.”