Microsoft Internet Safety, Security and Privacy Initiative for Nigeria

“2007 was the year online criminals showed off how smart and dangerous they can be…” – Ryan Singel in Cybercrime Stormed the Net in 2007

The concern for internet safety is a global phenomenon, especially as those who never had access are increasingly being connected through their computers, mobile phones and other devices. While the prevalence of social networking websites, online communities and internet-enabled processes should be great news for individual, corporate and government users, the concern for safety remains a major source of concern. A 2007 Internet Crime report listed Nigeria as number three on the list of the world’s top ten online crime spots; and the prevalence of cybercrime among a sizeable number of young Nigerians goes to show the need for immediate concern, especially with the recent boom in mobile service provision and online payment platforms in Nigeria.

Between 1991 and 2008, the number of internet users around the world grew from 4.4 million to 1.4 billion. The collaborative survey conducted in April 2006 by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveals that 1.5 million Nigerians were internet users at the time, but there are reasons to believe that the present figures are astronomically higher because of the democratization of access through mobile service providers (whose services are used by about 88 million users). While this should be perceived as good news, it also shows the increased dependence on the internet for our work, life and play.

This dependence is daily exploited by those who make the internet unsafe for other users. Walking into most cybercafés in Nigeria today, one will notice clusters of young people gathering around public computers for the purpose of manipulating the powers of technology to defraud others and disturb the desired safety of the internet. With the phenomenal growth of mobile phone users and democratisation on access to the internet, the issue of internet safety then becomes a matter of global emergency because criminals then have a platform through which they can deploy their vices without the need to show up in person. Unfortunately, these online criminals get better at their vices each time we ignore the need to act fast by promoting internet safety.

The challenge of making the internet as safe as possible is often treated lightly by many individuals, corporations, governments and other establishments in developing economies like Nigeria; hence the need to raise awareness through a social campaign that involves sensitization workshops in selected schools, a one-day event and deliberate follow-up project. Through the support of Microsoft, the social campaign will direct the spotlight to the issue of internet safety while also providing a platform for other industry players to work together. The expected outcomes for the 12-month strategy include sensitization workshops in 3 pre-selected schools across Nigeria (in Anambra, Ondo and Sokoto states); a one-day event that will draw attention to the issue of internet safety while also providing a platform for stakeholders to work together and a follow up project.

The follow-up project will specifically focus on the need to reduce the number of youth that engage in activities that threaten the safety of the internet. This follow-up project will be built on lessons from best practice efforts that address social ills and it will include a 4-phase process: recruitment, training, internships and business innovation. The recruitment process will seek to idenify youth who are engaged in cyber-crime and they will then be trained to use software development tools before being attached to various software companies for 3- to 6-month internships. Based on these, the youth will then be encouraged to either seek employment within the software (or relevant) industry or work as independent software developers. The process will also include a mentorship component that allows the interns to benefit beyond technical skills.

At the centre of the 12-month strategy will be the one-day event that will be hosted in Nigeria’s month of independence, and the event will be staged to attract endless attention through partnerships and use of huge entertainment appeal. The first of its kind in Nigeria, the one-day awareness event will hold in Nigeria’s most celebrated month (October) and at the most popular events’ venue; will be hosted by one of Nigeria’s most celebrated event comperes and feature one of Nigeria’s top-rated musicians; will be on the lips of everyone because it will be consistently featured by Nigeria’s most visible TV entertainment company; among others. The huge mass appeal and goodwill that the one-day event will generate, along with the inspiring stories that will come from the follow-up project, will keep every stakeholder on their toes in relation to internet safety.

To support this initiative, please contact info[at]pin.org.ng

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