Samoa Understanding the Internet Better

Online Safety” promoting better understanding of the internet in Samoa.

Office of the Regulator Continues Internet Parenting Awareness Across Samoa

The Office of the Regulator (OOTR) held workshops last week in the big island of Savaii as part of their continuous campaign on “Internet Parenting”. The workshops aim to equip communities, especially parents with knowledge and information to better understand and protect families from the harmful impact of the internet.

The office looks to engage and deliver the message through communication means available, and focuses efforts in disseminating information through church communities, arrange events and available means to ensure the nation is being informed.

“The Awareness Campaign focuses on sharing information and knowledge for parents to better understand what the internet is, how it can be used effectively and also the risks and dangers,” says the Chief Executive Officer for the Office of the Regulator, Lefaoalii Unutoa Fonoti.

Chief Executive Officer for the Office of the Regulator, Lefaoalii Unutoa Fonoti.

“We are hoping to equip parents in protecting children and young adults from harm while using the internet – through informative PowerPoint presentation, giving out brochures, short videos on the dangers of the internet and offering assistance when needed.”  

“The Office of the Regulator (OOTR) believes that parents play a major role in educating themselves and their children to understand how fast approaching the new technologies are, and how they impact on the children and families as well.”

“OOTR has been running a TV advertisement to educate both parents and children about the darker side of Social Media, despite its usefulness in terms of connecting each other. We also run a Social Media ad on local TV stations, radios and also showing this ad [Online Safety Ad by the Office of the Regulator] non-stop at the Apollo Cinemas. The idea is to make sure that parents and children receive the message in any medium they can.”

“We have run the Girls in ICT Group since 2015 that focuses on encouraging girls from Year 12 and Year 13 to take up ICT as a career, but also educate them on the negative and positive side of the internet.”

The awareness campaign is part of the Government of Samoa’s response to growing crime cases related to the internet, according to the Chief Executive Officer for the Office of the Regulator, Lefaoalii Unutoa Fonoti.

The awareness workshops are part of the bigger plan that also include policies developed, and collaborated efforts in implementing system to safe guard Samoa from the negative impact of the internet.

“We have heard Justice Leilani Tuala Warren’s speech during the Girls in ICT Day workshop in April this year – number of cases coming to court on these issues are growing, and most of these cases are driven by watching indecent materials on the internet,” Lefaoalii highlighted.

Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren during the ICT Girts Workshop in April.

“As a result of court cases relating to pornography and indecent material involving young adults, OOTR and other stakeholders like the office of the Attorney General were directed to address the issue and the Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), an internet policy was developed and has since been approved.”

“Part of the CSAM Policy (A filtering system to prevent access to Child Sexual Abuse Material on the internet Policy) approved in 2016 included carrying out awareness campaigns that focus on the safety of children and young adults online.”

“OOTR and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are currently implementing the filtering system of the internet. The filtering system is where the ISP can block or filter content at the network level using software, Domain Name System (DNS) servers or firewalls with the effect of restricting customers access to a portion of the internet,” she stated.

 “There is a huge need for this campaign, and government cannot do it by itself, but needs the participation of the community.”

The Chief Executive Officer for the office stated that there are many challenges faced, the usual lack of resources, and the disappointment through lack of support from certain members of the communities. She stated that despite the challenges faced, the office will still proceed in reaching its target audience with the campaign message.

“We are also targeting churches and youth groups, unfortunately some churches refuse us the chance to share this information. Others are very receptive and appreciative of the efforts to help the parents understand their obligations as parents under these circumstances.”

“Our awareness campaign is going well.”  

“However, it’s sad to note that some churches that we approached to share the information with did not wish for us to do so, however our campaign will still proceed as long as we can get that message out to the parents and care givers.”

“Funding is the major challenge as we have to depend only on the budget from government to run this campaign.”

“One other difficulty or challenge in running this campaign is getting each village communities in one place – it is so hard for one village to join in the programme when it is hosted by one village.”

The awareness campaign started in 2017. It is also the first awareness “Internet Parenting” campaign carried out by the Office of the Regulator.

The programme has been running for two years and showing positive signs through the level of understanding from people, according to Lafaoalii.

“In bringing this awareness programme to the churches it gives them a very important lesson, that yes, internet is important not only for them but their children, but it comes with its negative impacts that they have to be aware of and always be alert of their children’s attitude.”

“Most of the place we have been to promote our awareness programme – we were amazed at the level of understanding of most parents of what internet is.”

“The campaign in Savaii last week was a success, we received a lot of positive feedback not only from parents and elders involved but also young groups. Most parents thank the OOTR for running this programme. It is a constant reminder that the parent’s duty is to know their child and what they are doing on the internet.”

“We have received positive feedback on this campaign in fact last year was a very successful campaign.”

The ongoing project is aligned to the Strategy for the Development of Samoa (SDS), under the Social and Infrastructure priorities, in improving community safety and contributing to improving ICT connectivity, according to the Chief Executive Officer for the Office of the Regulator.

The campaign began at school level and looking to reach as many people it can possibly can. Awareness workshops for Savaii have been in progress, with Upolu workshops to be carried out next week. The office’s main plan is cover all part of society.

The office of the Regulator acknowledges all churches and members of the public that made time to participate in the programme.

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