Safe internet access for all: UNODC spearheads cybercrime protection among Cape Verdean students and teachers

 

Elementary school pupils receive custom cybercrime prevention notebooks from the UN resident Coordinator in Cape Verde. Picture: UNODC

 

West Africa in recent years has witnessed a sharp increase in internet and social media users, especially among the continent’s youths and Cape Verde, a small island nation situated off the coast of Senegal is no different. According to Digital 2022: Global Overview Report, the number of internet and social network users in the country increased by 32% between 2021 and 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, dealt a great blow to this progress as cyber criminality reached new heights. As more children and teenagers became more connected to the internet so too did cyber criminality. The lack of knowledge of basic safety rules and internet protection made it easy for cybercriminals, whose activities increased dramatically during the pandemic, to prey on children. Young people (teenagers and younger children) have often been the target of fraud, sexual extortion, and child sexual abuse online. At this cognitive development stage, they are not fully aware of all the dangers of the internet and think it is a safe and harmless place. 

To empower and support students, teachers, and parents in adopting good practices to protect themselves against cybercrime and in line with its vision to promote awareness among children and adolescents on the threats of cybercrime, the Government of Cape Verde and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), through its Global Programme on Cybercrime, has developed prevention materials, including notebooks and agendas, to be distributed in schools across the country.

 

Mrs. Ana Cristina Andrade, Senior Coordinator of the UNODC Programme Office for Cabo Verde outlines the importance of the donation. Picture: UNODC

 

Dr. Amado de Andrés, the UNODC Regional Representative for West & Central Africa, applauded this action, highlighting that “this donation from UNODC Cybercrime will enable younger children, teenagers and educators in Cape Verde to acquire basic knowledge on cybercrime and basic preventive measures, knowledge that can help them lead lives free from online exploitation and UNODC is proud to be a part of this action.”

During the opening ceremony, the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Cape Verde Ana Patricia Graça emphasized that, “In addition to the psychological damage that this type of crime causes our children and young people, the economic damage has been devastating in recent years”. In fact, according to the World Bank, between 2019-2023, approximately USD 5.2 trillion in global value will be at risk from cyberattacks and a single large-scale attack could trigger USD 53 billion in economic losses.

In presenting the notebooks and agendas, the Senior Coordinator of the UNODC Programme Office for Cape Verde, Mrs. Ana Cristina Andrade, drew the students' attention to the dangers of the Internet and the "extreme consequences" of some "malicious acts" in the lives of young people.

Representing the Government of Cape Verde, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Justice shared a strong and unified message in the fight against cybercrime in the country, especially among young people. 

The Minister of Education, Mr. Amadeu da Cruz reiterated that the role of educators in preventing cybercrime is fundamental. He also appealed to young people for more responsibility in using the internet, outlining that, crimes, such as cyberbullying, have intensified with the advancement of technologies and the increasingly early access of young people to the internet.

According to the Minister of Justice Mrs. Joana Rosa, “fighting cybercrime is a global challenge and Cape Verde is no exception, but prevention is the biggest weapon to fight criminal activity.” She also stressed that the notebooks and agendas are a way of training students and teachers so that they too can use this information to be advocates for safe internet use in their communities.

The students and teachers received the initiative with enthusiasm and were challenged to be multiplying agents of the information received through these cybercrime awareness materials. Cybercriminal activities are becoming one of the emerging forms of transnational crimes in West Africa and globally and UNODC is reinforcing efforts to curb its spread across the West African region.

The UNODC Global Programme on Cybercrime is able to implement this activity in Cape Verde thanks to support from the US State Department of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

 

Minister of Education with some students and their notebooks. Photo: UNODC

 

Minister of Justice pictured with teachers and their agendas. Photo: UNODC