During the Covid pandemic, measures taken to contain the spread of the pandemic have resulted in closure of schools and movement to virtual learning environments. Children also spent more time online for entertainment, social and educational purposes, whilst not necessarily being aware of any associated risks.
According to a UNICEF report, 13% of children and people aged 25 years or less in South Asia accessed the internet at home. NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) data reveals that more than 400% increase in cyber crime cases committed against children was reported in 2020 in comparison to 2019, with most of them relating to publishing or transmitting of materials depicting children in sexually explicit act. There is a sharp rise in cyber crimes (registered under the Information Technology Act) committed against children in comparison to previous years because the internet is now the medium of schooling as well.
Corporate social responsibility is doing its part for the cybersafety of children.
WNS Cares Foundation (WCF), the CSR arm of WNS Global Services, is collaborating with Robotex India to empower children and youth with practical knowledge around cybersafety through its digital platform CyberSmart.
By 2023-24, WCF and Robotex India will be empowering over 10 lakh students in a phased manner. Initially, as part of a pilot programme, WCF will provide orientation support for certifying around 1,000 students through CyberSmart. Subsequently, WCF will conduct Train the Trainers sessions for Zilla Parishad school teachers and Robotex India volunteers across Maharashtra. These will further train teachers in government schools and help create cybersafety awareness among over 8 lakh children in rural schools. In phase two, over 2 lakh students from over 500 Maharashtra Model Schools will also be certified on cybersafety.
India’s first holistic cybersecurity education portal, CyberSmart enables gamified learning using thematic quiz-based modules based on curriculum advisory and challenges that children encounter in cyberspace. It was launched nationally in May 2020 by Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, MeitY, in partnership with NASSCOM, and is available in ten Indian languages. Since the launch, CyberSmart has empowered more than 6 lakh learners including teachers, parents and children on traversing the cyberspace safely.
“Cybersafety has always been a crucial agenda for the government and given the acceleration in the adoption of digital education, it has become essential to make cybersafety of children a part of the school curriculum. The pace at which WCF CyberSmart is being adopted since its launch last year with MeitY and NASSCOM, is a testimony to the fact that as a society, we realize the importance of making our virtual spaces safe for children,” said Dr. Ajai Garg, Senior Director, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
The unique online and offline methodology created for CyberSmart has helped us use the platform effectively in collaborating with institutions and organizations that work in remote regions where access to devices and the internet may be a challenge,” says Shamini Murugesh, Honorary Chief Mentor, WCF and Creator, CyberSmart. “CyberSmart was launched with the vision of empowering every child in the country to safely navigate the virtual world. WCF’s collaboration with Robotex India is another step in that direction. Both organizations are focused on furthering the cybersafety agenda and creating an equitable, safe online space for children,” says Keshav R. Murugesh, Group CEO, WNS.
Apart from the collaboration on CyberSmart, Robotex India will also provide relevant content that will be hosted on Digital Treasure, a free-access online repository housing quality curricular content and stories in multimedia formats, available in various Indian languages.