As part of the global “#We PROTECT children online” programme, Namibia made an urgent call to action last week and agreed on greater effort and innovation to identify and address child sexual abuse taking place online – globally and in Namibia.
Speaking last Thursday at the opening of the workshop entitled ‘Child online safety and business,’ the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana, announced the key components contained in the draft Namibian Electronic Transaction and Cybercrime Bill.
He said the draft Bill will provide a comprehensive and progressive provision to criminalize child pornography; assist in regulating illegal searches; provide for the admission of abusive electronic evidence to authorities; and create certain powers for the investigation of offences.
“We are facing a challenge of protecting children in an increasingly digital and online world and education is vital,” Ua-Ndjarakana stated, adding: “Therefore, protecting our children online from exploitation is something that MICT is working on and this workshop is testimony of our commitment to realising that.”
The one-day workshop which took place on the outskirts of Windhoek brought together 30 representatives from the technology industry in Namibia (telecoms, green solutions) and regionally the Group Social Mobile Association for Africa (GSMA Africa), the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) and from South Africa (Film and Publications Board), officials from the Ministry of Justice, the police, and from gender and education sectors.
Civil Society organisations from Namibia and the Child Helpline, InHope Foundation, the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, the Children’s Ombudsman, and the Namibia University of Science and Technology were also in attendance.
The delegates were introduced to the global International Telecommunication Union and UNICEF Child Online Protection Guidelines for the industry, and to technological tools that were developed to assist the industry in tracking the spread of child sexual abuse materials and hamper the success of criminals who seek to exploit and abuse children online.
Speaking at the event the UNICEF country representative to Namibia, Micaela Marques de Sousa, said: “The role of the ICT sector in building online safety of children is critical. This is why it is important for UNICEF to establish global partnerships with the ICT sector including GSMA, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter and others to develop guidelines and tools for companies to better integrate children’s rights into their policies and operations.”
This workshop fits into the broader global #WE PROTECT Children Online programme that is funded by the UK government and is being implemented in 17 countries including Namibia.
In Namibia, work has been ongoing to undertake research into internet usage and knowledge of online risks by adolescents; legal and regulatory reform; strengthening of the 116 Helpline to include child online safety cases; strengthening response by the law enforcement, prosecution and social welfare sectors; and awareness raising with learners and parents.
“We congratulate Namibia for placing child online protection on the national agenda,” said the British High Commissioner to Namibia, Joanne Lomas.
“The UK Government, through the WeProtect programme, is proud to support UNICEF’s efforts in Namibia to combat online child sexual exploitation. We look forward to working with UNICEF and the Government of Namibia to help ensure this heinous crime is combated.
“Such exploitation does not respect borders or jurisdictions and tackling it requires coordinated action by governments, law enforcement, industry and civil society,” said the high commissioner.
The workshop was followed by a roundtable discussion that resulted in the drafting of an action plan, with distinct responsibilities for all stakeholders from various sectors.