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RMIT University releases report on cyber safety in remote Aboriginal communities

An announcement
made by the RMIT
University
highlighted a report it released explaining more fully the
barriers to digital inclusion for remote Indigenous Australians. Although the cyber
safety measures implemented by social media platforms, financial institutions
and service providers are effective for many Australians, people in remote
Indigenous communities face unique cyber security challenges.

Cyber safety awareness is more critical nowadays because majority
of a person’s daily life is performed online. Social networks allow people to
stay in touch. Managing finances are transacted through online banking.
Personal details are stored and provided online.

Users normally implement cyber safety measures by protecting
themselves and the people close to them from a range of risks that include
cyberbullying, identity theft, harassment and scams.

Although the existing tools that are already in place for
managing online safety and privacy are considered effective for many
Australians, the protection provided by social media platforms, financial
institutions and service providers are not enough for people in remote
Indigenous communities. They face some distinctive cyber security challenges.

A new report from RMIT has identified specific differences
in the use of personal technology that create challenges for remote Aboriginal
individuals and communities.

One of the issues is the sharing of devices among
individuals, according to report co-author and RMIT Associate Professor Ellie
Rennie, which may lead to a potentially big privacy issue for users.

Ms Rennie added, “Social obligations can influence how
people use devices and this can lead to problems with privacy.”

Indigenous people have avoided using services such as online
banking due to damaging experiences like identity violations and unauthorised
access to financial accounts.

Moreover, users incur increase in costs because they had to
replace lost, borrowed or damaged devices. Add to that is their problems with
data credit theft.

Additionally, the users end up being misrepresented as
members of gangs or participants in riots since some of the videos shared
online lacked explanation or appropriate context.

“We were told that social media can escalate existing
conflict, or leave some people feeling isolated,” Ms Rennie said.

Appointing “trusted flaggers” in social media or people who
can help moderate problematic content was recommended in the report. Furthermore,
Elders and organisations tasked to do face-to-face mediation should receive more
support.

The research done by RMIT involved workshops, interviews and
observation in four communities in two regions. A copy of the comprehensive
report can be downloaded here.

In doing the project, the researchers learned that cyber
safety is an issue that is challenging for people in remote communities to talk
about. RMIT had to work with four Aboriginal media organisations to describe
their experiences in order to gather information.

 “We are seeing some
terrific radio documentary content arising out of the project, produced by the
Aboriginal media organisations,” said Mr Mark Sulikowski, Senior Advisor,
Indigenous Digital Capability at Telstra.

He added, “As this is released over the coming months, we
hope it will inspire discussion about staying safe online in the remote regions
where it was made.”

Telstra funded the research as a commitment in their
Reconciliation Action Plan 2015-18 in order to better support digital inclusion
for remote Indigenous Australians.

The research was conducted by RMIT Associate
Professor Ellie Rennie, Dr Tyson Yunkaporta from Monash University and PhD
candidate Indigo Holcombe-James from RMIT’s Digital Ethnography Research
Centre.

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