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EXCLUSIVE: CyberSafe Project Ensures the Internet Remains a Safe Space for Filipino Children

Ysrael Diloy

The annual OpenGov Recognition of Excellence recognises and celebrates government agencies, academic institutions, organisations, and local government units that strive toward excellence in ICT strategies, policies and initiatives.

It aims to set new benchmarks for government ICT innovation in the ASEAN and ANZ regions.

The Philippines has embarked on an exciting digital transformation journey, seeking to improve the lives of citizens through the use of digital technology.

One of the organisations who has taken this vision to heart and deeply committed to its vision is the Stairway Foundation.

Stairway Foundation is one of the recipients of the OpenGov Recognition of Excellence 2019, conferred on them at the Philippine OpenGov Leadership Forum 2019, for its #BeCyberSafe project.

About the Project

An understanding of the project will require knowing its raison d’être and knowledge of its background. To learn more about the project and its journey, OpenGov Asia spoke with Ysrael C. Diloy, Senior Advocacy Officer, Stairway Foundation, during the first quarter of this year, 2019.

In the first interview, Ysrael explained that the #BeCyberSafe Project is part of a much larger child protection ecosystem under the Department of Education, in which Stairway is a development partner.

The project aims to further educate the Filipino community on how children can remain safe in the cyber world.

We are at an age wherein the current generation of children has known technology as the norm. Now more than ever, we need to ensure that we are all contributing to make the Internet a safe space for the children so that they can reap all the benefits and opportunities that technology presents. This is the very essence the CyberSafe project hopes to achieve.

Ysrael C. Diloy

The advent of technology has provided anyone and everyone access to the internet with unparalleled ease. With this ubiquitous access, however, one of the major growing concerns is the online safety of the children.

The 3 main components to the project – awareness, education and safety – were addressed through 3 projects: Project for Keeps, Dalir-Eskwela, and Chatbot.

Project for Keeps is the awareness-raising component. A short video on online friending was created to generate general public awareness on Cyber Safety.

The Dalir-Eskwela is the education component of the initiative, wherein 4 educational videos on Cyber Safety were developed.

These videos tackled Cyberbullying, Online Gaming Addiction, Chatting and Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Materials.

Chatbot, the component addressing the response portion, serves as an online reporting tool that children can access to report distressing situations they encounter online, such as online abuse or cyberbullying.

It has been six months since this initial conversation and OpenGov was keen to know how the project had evolved. Mr. Diloy once again was kind enough to speak with OpenGov Asia to talk through the progress and journey.

How Has the Project Evolved?

The roll-out process had begun, as part of the CyberSafe initiative of the Department of Education (DepEd). The Department’s plan was to execute 16 regional-level training of trainers, which started late November 2018 and has continued until November 2019.

Atty. Josephine G. Maribojoc, Undersecretary for Legal Affairs, Department of Education, during the CyberSafe Training of Trainers

So far, 12 regions out of the 16 have been covered, which translates to 720 Division level trainers that have been trained so far.

The project is being delivered to the different regions in the Philippines via the CyberSafe ToT or Training of Trainers.

Each of the DepEd’s Schools Division sends a team to the training so that they will gain an in-depth understanding of the issues around online protection for children.

The team will also learn how to deliver child online protection education to students and their fellow colleagues using different CyberSafe learning resources.

They will be trained on how to handle any disclosure from students regarding child online protection concerns.

The whole ToT process is expected to be completed by March 2020, leaving only 4 more regional ToTs to be implemented.

Utilising ICT

The CyberSafe learning resources were all developed in the context of teacher-facilitated sessions. These resources are the CyberSafe lesson plans, Project for Keeps awareness video and Dalir-Eskwela learning videos.

However, the foundation recognised that the cascade strategy will take a long time before actually reaching and saturating classrooms as it entails continuous capacity building of people.

As such, they realised how they need a tool that will reach out to as many children as possible, which is not totally dependent on teacher-facilitated sessions.

To address this need, they developed a set of E-Learning courses on child protection. One of which is an E-Learning course on child online protection.

Students using the E-Learning courses developed by Stairway Foundation

The traditional face to face child protection training was transformed into interactive E-Learning courses, which are all self-guided and self-phased learning sessions.

Recognising that awareness is a key factor in prevention of child sexual abuse, the foundation’s E-Learning courses have been designed to highlight critical issues.

The Stairway Foundation E-learning courses are free-access child protection courses that address the pressing need to educate people on children’s rights as well as to prevent child sexual abuse, both offline and online.

There are specific courses, designed for both adults and children, which discuss the issue of technology-enabled cybercrimes against children.

There are three courses specific to children: Cyberbullying, Online Content Sharing, and Online Interaction.

These E-Learning courses can be accessed online and are also being introduced in the CyberSafe ToTs.

Online connectivity continues to be an issue in most schools. However, this will not hinder the schools from gaining access to the courses as an offline version had also been developed.

The foundation is currently working out a distribution strategy with the Department of Education so that these offline courses can be installed in the DepEd school computer laboratories around the Philippines.

New Partnerships

Stairway Foundation has teamed up with Facebook Philippines in line with the latter’s digital literacy and citizen initiative called Digital Tayo.

Including Digital Tayo in the CyberSafe ToTs helps address the need to equip the Filipino teachers with digital literacy. It will provide learning resources on digital literacy and citizenship in the Filipino context.

Mr. Diloy mentioned that they are exploring a possible collaboration with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) as well as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the Philippines CyberSafe project.

Stairway Foundation is searching for ways on how the E-Learning courses can be used in DICT’s Tech4Ed centres all over the Philippines.

Tech4ED provides access points for individuals and communities to bridge the digital and education divide. It is where communities can gain access to information, communication, technology, government services, non-formal education, skills training, telehealth, job markets, and business portals.

Meanwhile, the foundation is also looking for ways to include CyberSafe education in DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), particularly in their Family Development sessions.

Measures of Success

When asked if he considers the #BeCyberSafe project to be a success, Ysrael explained that they have a long way to go.

In general, the project has three major phases. These are Learning Resources Development; Personnel Capacity Building; and Direct Sessions with Students.

Currently, they are still in the second phase, which still has several sub-phases. These sub-phases are Regional CyberSafe ToTs towards Division Level Roll-outs; towards School level training of teachers; until classroom-level implementation.

CyberSafe Training of Trainers session

The project is at the Regional CyberSafe ToT level, while the rest of the sub-phases are projected to be implemented in the next academic school year, which is 2020-2021.

At this level, one concrete objective of the training is to raise awareness and knowledge levels of the participants regarding the issue of online protection of children.

Aside from qualitative measurements such as reflection papers at the end of each training day, quantitative measurement tools such as a pre-test and post-test are employed.

On average, participants registered a 4 point increase in pre-test to post-test scores, indicating a significant knowledge increase on the topic.

The CyberSafe project hopes that users of the platform will gain more awareness of the issue. At the same time, as they receive more knowledge about it, they should have a change of perspective.

Hopefully, this will help in contributing to the prevention of child sexual abuse, both online and offline.

The project will be considered a success when users display the knowledge they learned from the E-Learning courses. Additionally, they should have increased protective and disclosure behaviour.

Lastly and probably a very important success indicator is a steady decline and decrease in cases of online abuse and exploitation of children.

Ysrael concluded the interview by reiterating Stairway Foundation’s commitment to ensuring that the internet is a safe place for children to learn, interact and explore the world.

In the digital world, the next generation is increasingly a digital-native one. If they are to avail the full potential technology offers, then they must be able to safely navigate the digital landscape.


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