The Berkman Center for Internet & Society is engaged in a long-term research effort concerning online safety risks and opportunities to children in developing countries. The digital divide between developed and developing countries is narrowing, and while this brings many new opportunities and resources into the lives of young people, it also exposes new groups with less digital literacy to a range of online risks.
Many projects seek to deploy information and communication technologies (ICT) to improve the education and quality of life of children in developing countries. While some of these programs aim to improve and promote children’s digital safety, there is as of yet little research that addresses such issues and trends on a global scale. We hope that this project will be an opportunity to provide the time and resources necessary to work towards solving the safety issues that have been identified but not yet addressed.
As a complementary contribution to this research, the Berkman Center has collaborated with UNICEF on an exploratory study, released in June 2010. The paper’s three main objectives were:
- to raise awareness about issues related to digital safety for youth in developing nations
- to provide a tentative map of these issues and give insights into the current state of the respective research based on an exploratory literature review; and
- to outline the contours of a research framework through a series of working hypotheses that might inform subsequent research efforts on these issues by connecting efforts in developing and industrialized nations.
Building on this exploratory study, the Berkman Center collaborated with the Digital Media and Learning (DML) Research Hub, supported by the MacArthur Foundation. The Center hosted a DML Research Hub Working Group to explore further safety issues related to the use of digital technologies (including mobile phones) in the developing world. The working group scattered information that is available on this important but under-researched topic.
Building on these foundational efforts, the Berkman team continues to collaborate with UNICEF and is currently engaged in a series of in-depth country studies, including a pilot study in Indonesia.