Nº 5 2013 > Editorial
Cybersecurity - Protecting our children online
By the end of this year, some 2.7 billion people will be using the Internet, with 2.1 billion active mobile-broadband subscriptions. As cyber presence grows and so many of the world’s people embrace the evident advantages that information and communication technologies bring, we all have a responsibility to make cyberspace a safe, healthy and productive environment – especially for our children and youth.
The 2013 Internet Security Threat Report from ITU’s International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT) reveals that web attacks in 2012 were up 30 per cent, and that malware targeting mobile phones grew by 58 per cent. More than 550 million adults worldwide experienced some form of cybercrime last year, and almost half of teenagers aged 13 to 17 experienced some sort of cyberbullying. We need to address these alarming trends.
Good progress is being made with our Child Online Protection (COP) initiative, which ITU launched in 2008 as part of its Global Cybersecurity Agenda. COP is an international collaborative network for action, with a growing number of partners from various sectors of society to ensure a safe and secure online experience for children around the world.
As a practical step to help countries get started with making the cyberworld safe for young people, we have worked with partners to produce tailored guidelines - for children, for parents, guardians and educators, for industry, and for policy-makers. ITU is now collecting national case studies on child online protection with the aim of sharing best practice and developing policies. The first of these studies was published recently and is on Costa Rica, which is addressing online child safety through several programmes and projects.
We are very proud of the efforts of Her Excellency President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica in her role as Patron of the ITU Child Online Protection initiative. President Chinchilla has committed Costa Rica to creating a national role model for online protection. I trust that her commitment and the invaluable work developed at the national level will inspire many other leaders, experts, private companies, and civil society around the world.
We are equally proud of the work of Deborah Taylor Tate, the ITU Special Envoy for Child Online Protection, which has helped COP reach a wide audience. In her words: “With each wave of technology, COP seeks to assist parents, policy-makers, industry and our youth themselves to be educated, empowered consumers in this new Digital Age." In 2009, she received the ITU World Telecommunication and Information Society Day Award for her international work on the education and protection of children online.
More recently, on 22 July 2013, it was a great honour for me to welcome to ITU and formally appoint Her Excellency Dame Patience Jonathan, the First Lady of Nigeria as ITU Child Online Protection Champion. Dame Patience is President of the African First Ladies Peace Mission and a renowned humanitarian, who has demonstrated deep interest in activities of children and young people. Under her guidance, the Government of Nigeria is now taking extensive steps to ensure a safer online environment for children.
On the same occasion, I was pleased to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between ITU and Nigeria to set up a regional cybersecurity centre in Nigeria. This centre will facilitate regional and national collaboration to combat cyberthreats — with an emphasis on activities related to protecting children online.
Child online protection and cybersecurity are on the agenda of the upcoming Global Youth Summit: BYND 2015, to be held in San José, Costa Rica, from 9 to 11 September 2013 under the patronage of President Chinchilla. Young people will debate questions that face the first truly “digital generation” – and will crowd source suggestions to be taken to this year’s session of the United Nations General Assembly concerning the way forward, beyond 2015.