Protecting our Children

[This week’s Communications column for the Vanuatu Independent.]

Note: Because of public demand for a printable version of this column, here’s a PDF version of this week’s column.

This week, I’m going to give over much of my column space so that other voices can be heard.

Over the last two weeks or so, there’s been an animated and quite fascinating discussion on the VIGNET technical mailing list. VIGNET is a mailing list service provided by the Vanuatu IT Users Society (VITUS) in order to contribute to a public dialogue about all things to do with technology. With over 220 subscribers, it represents a significant number of people working in IT in Vanuatu.

Following the roll-out of Digicel’s GPRS mobile Internet service, concerns have been raised about children and youth in Vanuatu having access to unsuitable content, especially pornography, through their mobile phones.

With nearly 100 messages from dozens of different contributors, the discussion was illuminating, intelligent and remarkably respectful, especially given the delicacy of the topic. What follows is a small but representative sampling….

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The Wisdom of Crowds

The successful development of Vanuatu in this day and age is contingent on improvement in communications. In geographic terms, the majority of Vanuatu has little or no access to even basic communications services. In terms of population, the situation is better, but not by a lot.

We’ve known about this problem for a long time. We also have a very clear understanding of the limitations we face. Those of us who are devoted to solving technical problems in Vila, Santo and the islands have an intimate and detailed knowledge of the problems that can afflict us. Those working in development in more general terms have become adept at working around the shortcomings that poor communications place on us.

It’s clear as well that most – if not all – of the stakeholders in this game have some pretty clear ideas about how these problems can be addressed. It’s therefore difficult to understand why these issues continue to dog us as they do.

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