Calling for innovative solutions that promote online safety across Africa

The exponential increase in internet, smartphone, and mobile network usage over the past few years, which accelerated during the COVID-19 crisis, has created new opportunities for socio-economic development in Africa. However, the rapid growth has also resulted in an increasing number of safety and security concerns varying in the different African regions from identity theft, bullying, and harassment, sex trafficking, hate crimes, terrorist recruitment and promotion, to mis- or disinformation and financial scams.
 
To address these pressing issues, social innovation accelerator and advisory firm Impact Amplifier has designed the Africa Online Safety Fund, supported by Google.org, to finance innovative existing and new solutions to combat online security and safety threats. Research done by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), technical adviser to the Fund, highlighted specific areas of concern in various African countries.

 South Africa has an internet penetration of 71.4% and mobile internet penetration of 42.9%. According to Ipsos research conducted in 2018, South Africa has the highest rate of cyberbullying out of the 28 countries surveyed, 66% of which occurs on social media and largely goes unaddressed. Other online concerns include xenophobia and racism, as well as exposure of South African youth to mis- and disinformation and unwanted sexual contact.

 As the internet penetration rate continues to grow in South Africa, the practice of fact-checking and other tools to identify misinformation will become increasingly important. 
Moustafa Ayad, ISD’s Deputy Director commented: “As we turn increasingly to an online existence, digital threats become more acute. The Africa Online Safety Fund comes at a pivotal moment as these threats are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and we are excited to see the innovative, community-led and contextually relevant responses we know this call for applications will have.”

The Africa Online Safety Fund is making a $1 million commitment to address these online safety issues. There are two funding categories. Transformative, which provides grants of a maximum $100,000, is aimed at projects that provide larger and scalable solutions across multiple geographies and/or potentially large numbers of beneficiaries. The Catalytic category targets smaller, potentially local or culturally specific projects, with grants of a maximum $10,000.

 According to Tanner Methvin, Impact Amplifier’s Director, the Fund although not exclusively focused, will favour solutions that address women and children’s online safety specifically, as they are the most targeted communities in this regard. 

 Liza Belozerova, Google.org Grants Lead EMEA, commented: “Working with local communities to help people be safer online is a core focus of our work at Google.org.  Our work comes alongside the company’s long-standing commitment to strengthen privacy and security across the internet. The work of Google.org with local experts has taught us that the best answers often come from those closest to the problem. That’s why we are supporting Impact Amplifier’s Online Safety Fund with $1 million to support organisations and initiatives that seek to make the internet a safer place.”

The Fund will be open for applications from 17 July – 21 August this year. The call is open to social enterprises, public sector or public benefit organisations (not individuals) throughout Africa, but will be prioritising South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Ethiopia, and the Côte d'Ivoire. 

 Methvin said that the primary criteria that will be used to select successful applications include innovation and replication; social impact; potential for success; management team; financial efficiency, and sustainability.

 “The selection of finalists will be followed by a tight mentoring process to develop and implement the winning solutions in the regions and where applicable, across Africa in order to combat these socio, economic and political security and safety threats,” he added.
For more details about the call for applications, click here.
 
About Impact Amplifier

Impact Amplifier is a social enterprise that accelerates the growth and capital provision of high impact, innovative social enterprises in Africa. To move from “what is”, to what “can be” requires dreamers, innovators, risk-takers, humanists, and the collective will to manifest it. Impact Amplifier believes that change-makers, entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs are most fit for this purpose. With over 40 years of collective experience in developing social and environmental innovations, Impact Amplifier has designed its business to build the solutions and ecosystems required to enable this community to thrive and create a world we expect to live in where: access to food, energy, education, health care, housing, economic opportunities and a clean environment are equally available to everyone independent of their country of birth, gender, race, age, or resources.

Note: Impact Amplifier has supported other Google interventions between 2018 and 2020, which include the implementation of the Google Impact Challenge - South Africa.  As a local country partner, Impact Amplifier was tasked to source, select and accelerate 12 social enterprises in South Africa that provide technology solutions for economic inclusion in South Africa. A new initiative that launched recently is GetSet-4IR, which aims to work with employers and ecosystem funders to put in place a number of interventions that will result in fixing the digital skills ecosystem by better matching candidates with the right level of digital skills to the requirements in the workplace.

About Google.org

Google.org, Google's philanthropy, supports nonprofits that address humanitarian issues and apply scalable, data-driven innovation to solving the world's biggest challenges. We accelerate their progress by connecting them with a unique blend of support that includes funding, products, and technical expertise from Google volunteers. We engage with these believers-turned-doers who make a significant impact on the communities they represent, and whose work has the potential to produce meaningful change. We want a world that works for everyone and we believe technology and innovation can move the needle.

About Institute for Strategic Dialogue

ISD is the leading global ‘think and do’ tank dedicated to understanding and innovating real-world responses to the rising tide of polarisation, hate and extremism of all forms. It combines anthropological research, expertise in international extremist movements and an advanced digital analysis capability that tracks hate, disinformation and extremism online, with policy advisory support and training to governments and cities around the world. It also works to empower youth and community influencers internationally through its pioneering education, technology and communications programmes.

Innovating, trialling and scaling data-driven solutions across its unique networks of community influencers, city and government officials and tech sector partnerships, it works to mount a soft power strategy, proportional in influence and impact to the ever-more sophisticated, cross-border polarisation and recruitment machineries of state and non-state actors promulgating hate, division and conflict.

For more information:
Impact Amplifier: Tanner Methvin at tanner@impactamplifier.co.za

Date published: 
Tuesday, 21 July, 2020

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