Building Safe, Productive Digital Highways Across the Americas
By Rachel Samrén, EVP Chief External Affairs Officer
In November 60 years ago, The Declaration of the Rights of the Child was signed and adopted by the United Nations, and this month has seen many events promoting awareness to improve children’s rights, their welfare, and their access to and protection from the internet.
As the digital revolution continues around the globe, improving access to the Internet for children is a critical element. With a connected life, children can tap into new educational pathways to seize their full potential and break intergenerational cycles of poverty. Digital connections also hold the promise of unforeseen industries and jobs, while giving children the potential to better understand and change their societies.
As part and parcel of that, however, business and civil societies have an obligation to ensure children’s safety online.
A report released in October commissioned by the United Nations’ working group on child online safety found that no government anywhere in the world has developed fully effective protection systems. It recommended the establishment of single national authorities each with ultimate responsibility for child online safety as well as a robust framework of legislation while also noting the millions of youngsters around the world who are yet to come online.
Millicom’s business is dedicated to expanding access to the technology that connects and transforms people’s lives in a responsible manner. We are committed to educating children and those who raise them — their parents, teachers, and caregivers — on the productive and safe use of digital technology.
Through our regional flagship program for protecting children known under its umbrella name ConectateSegur@, our volunteers and partners work with local governments and educational institutions to train teachers and parents on the risks as well as the safe and productive use of technology using materials and tools prepared by subject matter experts.
In Colombia, we developed a mini-series, launched in August 2019, called Patchers (Guardians of the Internet) that focuses on different storylines of various young people who experience situations related to cyberbullying, excessive internet use and other online issues. This allows us to communicate directly to young people and children through a natural form of communication for them. It also allows us to visually illustrate the opportunities and challenges digital technology brings as well as the responsible use of the internet.
In Guatemala, our Enseñanza Tecnológica program, which was set up in 2017, identifies online risks, develops educational materials and provides good practice guidance for parents, teachers, and children. In 2019, the program has encouraged the exchange of digital knowledge and experiences by training 1,000 teachers and reaching more than 28,000 children in public schools across Guatemala.
Between this year and 2023, our region-wide aim is to reach 700,000 children and adolescents, 70,000 teachers and 200,000 parents and caregivers with our ConectateSegur@ programs. To date, we have reached 368,138 children and adolescents, 20,373 teachers, 44,431 parents, and caregivers.
Across Latin America the need for safe connectivity to create a pathway to a better life is paramount. Throughout the region, millions of children between 3 to 18 years of age do not go to school at all due to political, security, economic or other challenges. These children are vital yet untapped reserves of opportunity who, with access to the vast stores of knowledge and education already on the internet can truly be part of unleashing their own and the region’s potential.
There is more work to be done, and Millicom stands at the ready to continue building safe, cutting edge digital highways to ensure a safe, and equitable future for all.
*Millicom is a leading mobile and cable service provider in emerging markets primarily in Latin America operating under the brand name TIGO. Earlier this year Millicom announced the acquisition of three operations of Telefonica to complement its fix-mobile service offer in Central America.