INDONESIA, 8 February 2021 – Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are spending time online to stay connected, including ASEAN youth. Nearly nine out of ten youths in the region reported increased reliance on digital tools in the past year, while almost half (42%) had picked up at least one new device.
By turning to the digital world, individuals are able to continue exploring their interests and expanding their views in spite of the ongoing circumstances. Although the internet offers a myriad of opportunities, it may also be accompanied by threats such as cyberbullying, misinformation, security risks and identity fraud.
With the support of Google, the ASEAN Foundation has sought to prepare youth for these challenges by organising the ASEAN Online Safety Academy for Youth, a webinar series, which aimed to not only promote safe and positive online experiences for youth in ASEAN but also advocate the value of digital citizenship. The first 3 sessions were attended by more than 1200 ASEAN youth. As an added resource, we are also launching an ASEAN Online Safety Academy website, with valuable resources so more people can continue learning about being safe online.
‘Digital Footprint and Cyberbullying’
The webinar series was launched in November 2020, with the first session focused on safeguarding your digital footprint and cyberbullying. Tenzin Norbhu, the Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy in Southeast Asia for Google APAC, and Ambassador Phasporn Sangasubana, the Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to ASEAN, spoke to the importance of resilience in these unprecedented times, especially with regards to continuing education. They were followed by a presentation from Lucian Teo, the Online Safety Education Lead at Google APAC, who explored the importance of safeguarding one’s digital identity, as well as how to respond to cyberbullying
“More than 33% of the ASEAN population comprise of our youth,” Ambassador Phasporn Sangasubana shared. “It is evident that we must continue to empower them as they become the pillars upon which our community stands strong and the catalysts for economic, social, and cultural development. Each episode achieves exactly that. These in-depth presentations, which provide them with a multitude of resources, are immediately followed by an open discussion panel that provides audience members with the opportunity to delve deeper into the material and put forward their own questions. With this Online Safety Webinar Series, we demonstrate our commitment to building the capacity of our younger generations by opening an abundance of career pathways before them.”
‘Misinformation -- Don’t Fall for Fake’
The second session took place in December 2020. Both Ryan Rahardjo, the Head of Public Affairs in Southeast Asia for Google APAC, and H.E. Kung Phoak, the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, provided intriguing remarks on the influence of the pandemic on people’s day to day lives. Another presentations from Lucian Teo, the Online Safety Education Lead at Google APAC and Zhang Ruohan, the Communications Specialist for the UNESCO Regional Office in Bangkok, emphasised the rising prevalence of misinformation as well as how to approach information that youth encounter online, so that they do not “fall for the fake.”
“It is truly inspiring to see this level of engagement from our youth regarding pressing issues such as those discussed in the webinar,” Deputy Secretary-General Kung Phoak said. “Knowing that these are the individuals to whom we entrust our future is not only assurance for all of us within the community, but also indicative of the exemplary standards to which we must hold ourselves for the generations to come.”
‘Privacy -- Secure Your Secrets’
Michael Rose, the Head of Data Governance at Google APAC, and Ambassador Tran Duc Binh, the then Permanent Representative of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to ASEAN, commenced the third instalment of the webinar series, highlighting the richness of the possibilities the internet presented before its users, and also delved into the existing layers of online security measures implemented by Google. Directly afterwards, Lucian Teo and Ellen Kusuma, the Head of Digital At-Risks Subdivision at SAFEnet, gave their advice on the importance of privacy, both in-person and online.
Empowering Our Youth, Enriching Our Future
In conjunction with the organisation of the fourth and final webinar, with the theme of “Wellbeing, Digital Parenting, Security and Misinformation,” the ASEAN Foundation and Google have come together to launch the ASEAN Online Safety Academy to provide youth across the region with the knowledge and tools they need to make smart and responsible choices online. On the website, youth can view the entirety of the webinar series, learning from the experts about how to surf the internet safely. The site can be accessed at any time on any device as it will remain entirely free.
“Online safety education is important for everyone, starting with young people. It is clearly a fundamental skill in navigating and responsibly enjoying the digital world, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic where people have come to rely even more on technology,” said Tenzin Norbhu, Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy in Southeast Asia for Google APAC. “We are glad to partner with the ASEAN foundation on this important initiative so more young people can learn how to make smart choices online and also access Google’s safety resources and tools.”
“In spite of the distance, we remain united in our commitment to equipping ASEAN youth with the necessary skills that enable them to pursue their personal and professional aspirations,” Dr Yang Mee Eng, the Executive Director of the ASEAN Foundation, said, “I look forward to our bright future, as it remains in the hands of our capable and enthusiastic youth, and I have no doubt they will exceed our expectations and they can achieve beyond our prediction.”