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East London professor creates child online protection policy for Rwanda

Students in lecture

Professor Davidson hopes the plan could act as a model template for child online protection in the region

Julia Davidson, professor of criminology at University of East London, has led the development of the National Child Online Protection Policy and an implementation plan for the government of Rwanda.

Professor Davidson led the project, funded by End Violence, in partnership with Baroness Beeban Kidron, CEO and founder of 5Rights Foundation; the University of Rwanda; and the government of Rwanda on behalf of Ministry of ICT and Innovation (MINICT).

By 2024 the government of Rwanda aims to achieve an internet rate of 80 per cent and mobile subscription rate of 98 per cent for its citizens.

Only a small number (8 per cent) of children aged 14–19 currently have access to the internet. Rates of access to internet and ICT technology are higher in schools than in the general population, however schools and teachers are not equipped with the software or knowledge necessary to safeguard students.

Professor Davidson said, “Access to and use of ICT in Rwanda is increasing rapidly. Rwandan children are particularly vulnerable, due to the rapid increase in access, inexperience and lack of safeguards. Pressing child online protection concerns raised by local stakeholders included exposure to online pornography and gender-based violence manifesting in, or being facilitated by, the online environment.”

Internet in Rwanda is almost exclusively accessed via mobile-broadband subscriptions with 4G Long Term Evolution technology having been deployed across the country (covering approximately 95 per cent).

Affordability schemes have been introduced to improve access, however they also introduce other safety concerns to users.

Project partners also collaborated to convene a cross-sector expert group of Rwandan stakeholders and UK high-profile professionals working within the field of internet safety. In addition, the project benefitted from detailed input from various consultants from the UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) Evidence Group.

Project partners also collaborated to convene a cross-sectoring expert group of Rwandan stakeholders and various UK high-profile professionals working within the field of internet safety. In addition, the project benefitted from detailed input from various consultants from the UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) Evidence Group.

The project team delivered a policy in early 2019 and, after a consultation period, a final version has now been approved by cabinet.

Alongside the policy a detailed five-year implementation plan was delivered, with corresponding resources and bespoke training (delivered by Professor Davidson, Baroness Kidron and Superintendent Wiley of Police Scotland), to build institutional knowledge and capacity in Rwanda.

Professor Davidson said, “The Policy and implementation plan could act as a model template for child online protection in the region. Rwanda is leading the way in ensuring that child online safety is a key aspect of its ICT strategy.”




See the full report published here.