Notes about the Broadband Commission Working Group
Last week I was invited as a member of the Working Group for Child Online Safety, to attend the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development annual Spring meeting in Silicon Valley.
The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development and its commissioners are uniquely positioned to address gaps in the policy and legislative space and can recommend to operators and Internet companies that they should develop and adopt solutions that minimise the risks to children online. The key deliverable by the Working Group on Child Safety Online will be a report with actionable recommendations for adoption by the Broadband Commission stakeholders.
The theme at this year’s annual meeting was, Shaping the Future of Broadband for Sustainable Development. The meeting gave the participants the opportunity to explore topics related to digital transformation and partnerships in a post 50-50 world.
With more than half of the global population now online, the world faces the challenge of achieving universal connectivity, and ensuring that everyone has equal opportunity to be connected in order to benefit from the digital economy. Connecting the remaining offline population will require different approaches than those used to bring the first 50% online.
Today there are more than 2 billion children under the age of 18 in the world and the majority of these live in the developing, still less connected countries in Sub Saharan Africa and Asia. The expansion of broadband in the developing world will bring a multitude of benefits to children and accelerate the economic growth of these countries, however it will also put millions of children at risk. Therefore, to ensure that children can benefit from this transformational technology in a positive way, with access to education, health care, information, entertainment etc, we must reduce the negative consequences and risks.
We know from experience that technology that is built for good will also be used for evil. This is because the use of technology today reflects our human behaviours and values. Therefore, I hope, for all our kids growing up in this era, that the Broadband Commission understands the importance of protecting children online and urges their members to adopt actionable, measurable and concrete technologies to make it as difficult as possible to sexually abuse children online. I also hope that the Broadband Commission considers the integrity of children depicted in child sexual abuse material, and that they will do everything in their power to make sure that their members ethical business standards result in IT-environments and services clean from child sexual abuse material.
Considering the rights of children in the Broadband for Sustainable Development plan is not just a moral obligation, it is good business sense. Children are people and it is a human right for victims of sexual abuse to not be re-victimised and further exploited online. We cannot let lack of effort and will be what hinders children to grow up to be well-functioning happy adults that contribute to society.
Children’s rights in the digital world need to be part of every conversation, because then and only then can the promise of connecting everyone and everything to a better future become a brighter future for all.