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Gov-X aims to curb online GBV, make cyber safer for all

Read time 3min 30sec

Research shows that around 40% of women in Africa are concerned about going online due to the risk of online GBV.

So said Anna Collard, SVP of content strategy and evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa, speaking at the debut of the Gov-X Innovation Challenge, a cyber-themed learning programme and hackathon that kicked off yesterday (1 February).

Working with the CyberSecurity Hub and the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, the University of the Western Cape: Future-Innovation Lab, partnered with KnowBe4, TrendMicro, BCX, Bi-Technologies, Blck Rhino, Vox Telecom, NClose, and Bi-Tech Africa to host the Gov-X Innovation Challenge.

During the event, stakeholders noted that while it has become critical for everyone to have the skills and tools necessary for safe digital work and life, cyber crime and digital gender-based violence (GBV) stood in the way of many people benefiting from the digital world.

“These risks need to be mitigated, and individual users and communities have to be empowered and protected in the digital realm,” they said.

Collaborating for a safer digital world

Pinky Kekana, SA’s deputy minister of Communications and Digital Technology, said the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos had recognised cyber security as one of the top 11 impact areas this year.

“Therefore, there is an urgent need for collective action, policy intervention and improved accountability on the part of government and business, to maintain the integrity and trust of emergent technologies in a world now reliant on digital technologies to work, entertain us and even babysit our kids,” she said.

“The WEF has been clear – we need a new approach to how technologies are harnessed and regulated to accelerate growth, encourage innovation and build resilience in the wake of COVID-19. A hackathon such as this can holistically address the top cybersecurity challenges.”

Curbing digital GBV

KnowBe4's Collard highlighted the African feminist research for a feminist Internet report, released by the Feminist Internet Research Network last year. It found that when perpetrators were reported to the platform in SA, they were only banned from the platform in 15% of the cases.

“There are organisations helping GBV victims in general, but few if any to help victims of online GBV."

Anna Collard, KnowBe4 Africa

In addition, she said research indicated that around 39% of women in Africa were concerned about going online due to the risk of online GBV. “There are organisations helping GBV victims in general, but few if any to help victims of online GBV. It’s not ‘nothing’: victims suffer, and they often have to get off the platform or reinvent their digital identity, but currently law enforcement is not equipped to understand the problem.”

Collard said this risk needed to be addressed to ensure the digital world is both safe and inclusive. “Law enforcement and first responder awareness needs to be raised, and platforms need to identify and block GBV and misogynistic content. We need more data and comparative analysis of what’s actually going on. We also need more awareness, to make it easier for victims to report such crimes, and set up entities where they can get help and counselling.”

Cyber safe SA

During the next three months, participants in Gov-X will work with the help of mentors to drive innovation towards a more digitised and cyber safe SA and to provide spaces in which vulnerable end users can live, work and transact online.

The themes that are set to be tackled at the challenge include supporting the national competency via the National Computer Security Incident Response team (CSIRT), helping to curb online GBV and provide assistance to victims, and raising cyber security awareness within communities.

Prizes include R100 000 for first place, R30 000 for second place and R10 000 for the third. Additional prizes include internships in the sponsors' organisations as well as bursaries for cyber security qualifications.


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