Windhoek-Acting UNICEF representative Marcus Betts says there is a need to break the myth that Namibian children do not access the Internet, because they are at equal risk of online violence and exploitation.
Betts noted this at the launch of the national reporting portal for online child sexual abuse material on Tuesday.
Speaking at the launch, he referred to the study conducted by the Namibia University of Science and Technology’s (NUST) Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention and UNICEF in 2016.
The study showed that 93 percent of Namibian children accessed the Internet in both urban and rural areas.
As many as 68 percent of these children had reported seeing sexual content online, which they did not wish to see.
Thirty-one percent of this content consisted of sexually explicit images, while 29 percent of children had seen child pornography material online.
In response to the emergence of online child sexual abuse, government has launched the national reporting portal for online child sexual abuse material in partnership with UNICEF and Childline/Lifeline.
The online reporting portal hosted by ChildLine/Lifeline is a technological solution that allows individuals to anonymously report online child sexual abuse images and video.
It also assists companies to remove child sexual abuse material from the Internet.
The portal serves as an example of the type of solution that a global statement of action to tackle child sexual exploitation that Namibia signed in March 2016 sets out.
The initiative further facilitates prosecution of the illegally produced and disseminated child sexual abuse content and aims to rescue and rehabilitate survivors.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT) Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana spoke about the new portal in a speech delivered on his behalf by Director of ICT Development Linda Aipinge-Nakale.
“Namibia like many other countries is concerned with child online protection as the number of online users increases rapidly, resulting in online risks for children and requires adequate response to address child online protection,” he said.
“After discussing various reporting mechanisms, national stakeholders decided to opt for the modality of an online public reporting portal facilitated by the Internet Watch Foundation of UNICEF, MICT and ChildLine/Lifeline,” he said. They came together and established the Namibian online child sexual abuse-reporting portal funded by UNICEF.
Betts applauded the Namibian government for joining forces with local and international partners to ensure children all over the world were safe online and “together even in cyber space we can create a Namibia safe and fit for children”.
“Tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation is not a job any agency can do alone, but a collective responsibility of public and private sectors, civil society and citizens alike.
“I therefore implore all stakeholders to optimally utilise this portal, which allows us to take ownership in making the Internet safe for children,” Ua-Ndjarakana said.
Kristof Claesen of Internet Watch Foundation complimented Namibian’s commitment to ensuring the Internet became safe for children.
“Coming here and seeing a room full of people committed to ensuring the Internet is safe for children is not only heart-warming but encouraging,” he said.
The portal can be found on the website of Childline/Lifeline at www.lifeline/childline.org.na.