As we mark World Safer Internet Day, there is the need to have a retrospect of what the world used to be without the internet, how we have revolved and the way forward. Since the introduction of the internet in Africa in 1995, businesses have improved, educational sectors and entrepreneurs have relied heavily on the internet for the growth of their businesses.
The Internet has provided numerous opportunities to Ghanaians among them, the ability to create networks, share information, as well as communicate. Today, Ghana boasts of over 10 million Internet users and ranks 28th out of 55 countries as of 2017 on the continent in terms of Internet penetration.
With the vast growth and expansion in the use of digital space, it has become evident that the majority of the world’s population is now living online. This trend can be accessed from the year 2016 where there is a huge increase and erudition of people’s connectivity and interest in social media.
The year 2016 also witnessed several online controversies and events both globally and locally such as the 2016 US Election, the 2016 Ghana elections and the Gambian Elections whose occurrences happened almost concurrently and sparked an unending social revolution and brand advocacy among online content users. Digital space has also served as a form of market place where individuals gain revenue for their contents either in video or audio or multimedia.
Again, as online shopping continues to surge in the mobile space, that includes cheaper prices, local spending, as a result, has slowed down physical marketing. The development of Internet technology marks another era of rapid growth and change in the use of media. Mass media technologies are converging into digital platforms where Organisations and individuals can conduct business. Prior to the coming of the internet in 1995, most Ghanaians conduct business physically. Ghana boasts of several electronic commerce sites that have really taken off in the past few years.
Despite the many advantages the Internet has brought to the citizenry, it has almost turned to serve as a double-edged sword by posing threats and risks such as harassment to the most vulnerable groups – mostly women. In 2010, Ghana, long viewed as Africa’s flawless gem, had its sparkling reputation tarnished. In a report published that year, Ghana gained the unsavory distinction along with Anglophone African neighbors Nigeria and Cameroon as one of the top ten Cybercrime generating states worldwide.
A baseline study conducted by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) revealed that online harassment is one of the major risks facing women online in Ghana. The study further revealed that this Cyber harassment manifested in the forms of non-consensual sharing of intimate images, Cyberstalking, and hate speech. 39% of the women respondents in this study are reported to have experienced some form of Cyber harassment, with 68% reporting to have experienced repeated harassment two or more times. What is the way forward, how do we stay safe online?
Here are some tips for being safe online.
- Avoid sharing personal information online.
- Read agreement policies when opening a social media account before clicking “I agree”.
- Most social media platforms allow you to report people who harass you, make sure to make use of that instead of closing down your account.
- Educate yourself on how social media platforms work. Reading is key.
- Set a strong password to keep your online account secure
- Always download software and application from authorized providers.
- Lock your phone with a password, PIN or unlock pattern to prevent anyone from accessing your personal data.
Always remember, you have the right to be online, don’t let anyone take that from you.