NCC, Stakeholders call for Child Online Protection

Computing

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and telecom industry stakeholders have called for online protection of the Nigerian child at a consultative forum held in Lagos last week. Put together by the Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) of NCC, the forum focused on the need to protect the Nigerian child from potential abuse, while surfing the net.

Owing to child vulnerability, NCC says it becomes necessary to formulate guidelines for operators to ensure that the Nigerian child is protected online while carrying out school research or having fun with educational games, hence the need for the forum, aimed at identifying child online risk, create awareness over such risk, share knowledge and experiences of the child online hazards, with a view to curb child online abuses and come up with strategies that would enhance online performance of the Nigerian child.

Speaking at the forum, Chairman, House Committee on Communication, Dave Salako said the internet remained a tool for technology advancement, but regretted that most people were using it negatively, which he said sometimes amounted to child abuse, based on the corrupt nature of contents uploaded on some websites. He said the advantages of the internet remained enormous, just the same way its disadvantages, but warned adults to consider the future of Nigerian youths while uploading, and during online chatting.

Also speaking, Chairman, Senate Committee on Communication, Sylvester Anyanwu, said "children are leaders of tomorrow, and should therefore be given adequate protection from cyber crimes and other related crimes. According to him, "Nigerian youths make up to 40 percent of the country's total population, and need the protection of adults for a greater tomorrow."

Describing the importance of online activities among youths, Acting Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Dr. Bashir Gwandu said "Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) to serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope that are linked by a broad array of electronic and optical networking technologies."

He said in Nigeria, Information Technology (IT) and the World Wide Web (www) have brought enormous benefits to Commerce, Science, Medicine and family life, especially with the advent of GSM in the country, which enables people have unlimited access to the internet through their mobile phones.

Gwandu, however, said that while the prospective for good about internet is acknowledged, it has also raised new and disturbing challenges, especially where children are concerned.

Another problem of the internet is that it has allowed a great deal of anonymity to a large number of people who may access the different websites, forums and chat rooms available. This has allowed perverted individuals to at times take advantage of innocent people and abuse their trust, he said, explaining that the internet is particularly attractive for a child since it has so much to offer in terms of entertainment. He condemned pornography, describing it as a serious threat in today's world that is causing a lot of problems.

Speaking on the Nigerian child and internet, Gwandu said "children are among the most active and most vulnerable participants online. The Nigerian population from 2006 census records youth from 10- 24 years to be about 45,400,000 in number and quite a number of children/teenagers in primary and secondary schools possess mobile phones which have internet access on them. It is a universal fact that our children are our future that is why young people's vulnerability in an online environment makes a specialised initiative within the larger frame work a necessity."

Managing Partner, Technology Advisors (TA), Basil Udotai, while delivering a paper on the theme, "Cyber Safety and the e-Child: a Global Perspective," said child online protection had become a global issue because of the damaging effects it has on children.

According to him, "the online environment operates in a global domain, and computers and devices are connected and networked across the globe, while criminal laws are basically national, both in scope and effects."

He said online enforcement requires cross border cooperation amongst countries, but that given the issue of sovereignty, countries can only cooperate based on bilateral or multilateral frameworks.

According to him, all the challenges affecting cyber crime and cyber security in Nigeria whether in relation to policy, law, capacity building, law enforcement procedures, judicial process, etc existed to worsen the child online protection issue.

He called for global safety strategies, such as effective cyber safety, commitment on the part of organisations and nations, non-governmental and private institutions, among others.