Over the past two decades, the lowering costs and greater ubiquity of technology are bringing accompanying digital assets, including a range of social media products, closer to and within reach of most communities and individual households in developing countries around the world. This will open up a new set of opportunities for some of the most vulnerable children, who have a high risk of being left behind. However, along with the net positives of this increased access, there is also the potential danger associated with unfiltered and inappropriate content and exploitative individuals reaching these vulnerable populations, particularly children.
The Center for Digital Development (CDD) recently launched the first ever USAID Digital Strategy. This strategy will further CDD’s objective to (1) Improve USAID development and humanitarian assistance outcomes through the responsible use of digital technology; and (2) strengthen the openness, inclusiveness, and security of country digital ecosystems. Within the Digital Strategy, the double edge sword of benefits and challenges are highlighted, including the prominent role governments, community intermediaries, and household leads should play in appropriate and safe access to digital resources.
Digital Frontiers has played a key role in supporting the development of the Digital Strategy and will continue to play an integral role in the launch, rollout, and implementation of the Digital Strategy. With CDD leading the process, Digital Frontiers will work closely with the CDD team to ensure a thorough, thoughtful, and consensus‐led process for the implementation of the various Digital Strategy initiatives.
USAID, through its new Digital Strategy, seeks to harness technology and new digital innovations to better support children, their communities and their governments towards sustainable development, while simultaneously safeguarding children from potential harm. Digital harm encompasses a wide range of increasingly abusive practices against children who access the information and communication technology (ICT), including the internet. Digital harm includes online bullying, harassment, and humiliation; access to harmful and pornographic images and content; distributing or possessing child pornography the coercion for children to share compromising and pornographic photos of themselves; and grooming and abuse of children for online sex abuse and trafficking. It also includes targeting and stopping those adults who use digital technology to exploit and abuse children.
As with their peers around the world, most children are naturally curious and seek edutainment media when this is available and explore new opportunities to network, study, learn and find work. ICT enables children and families to access needed information and can be a primary source of entertainment. The internet and digital assets can also help to improve children’s lives, especially vulnerable children, by enabling social workers and other child protection service providers to gather and share data, as appropriate and when available, facilitate case management and map violence. ICT, including television and radio, also allows for long distance, reliable, and low-cost communication with family and friends, which may help assuage children's fears when they cannot physically be with their parents, and help build social skills through these networks and build feelings of cultural belonging and self-worth.
While technology can unlock a wealth of benefits, children and youth also face new and dangerous risks when using the internet and ICT. Children can be exposed to harmful and inappropriate content or be targeted by perpetrators of sexual abuse and exploitation of children. They may be groomed and coerced into sharing compromising and pornographic images to others, and subsequently jeopardizing themselves and the reputation of their families. Children and youth may be unaware of the short- and long-term consequences of engaging in such behaviors thus creating risks to online privacy in terms of data collection and usage and, thus, while they think they may be anonymous, children are sharing critical location and personal information. They may be bullied by schoolmates or humiliated with embarrassing photos or actions.
For USAID’s Digital Strategy to be successful, we must be able to safely bring new technology and resources to communities as part of our goal to achieve sustainable development, simultaneously bringing all the benefits that the internet and digital assets can offer, while minimizing the risks.
This scope is specifically for Digital Frontiers support to the Digital Strategy initiative track “Help Our Partners Navigate Opportunity and Risk”. The activities under this scope of work will continue to ensure USAID and our partners fully seize the opportunities and appropriately mitigate the risks that digital technology presents, by employing a principled approach to apply digital development effectively and responsibly throughout the USAID Program Cycle.
To focus USAID’s efforts to protect children and those responsible for advancing the Digital Strategy, need a better understanding of current efforts to protect children, and vulnerable populations, from digital harm This examination should include mapping activities to date and identifying key stakeholders engaged in digital harm reduction efforts, so that USAID can leverage its convening power and resources to complement current efforts and make maximum impact to protect vulnerable children and their families while advancing access to digital assets.
The Center for Children in Adversity (CECA) seeks a consultant to develop a detailed overview of the landscape of current efforts to protect children from digital harm. Through a desk review and various key informant interviews with U.S. Government, bi-lateral donors, relevant multinational organizations, civil society, and other key stakeholders, this landscape analysis will better inform USAID’s Digital Strategy to protect children from digital harm by identifying key gaps in current programming, preventing duplication, and promoting collaborating/coordinating with similar efforts. U.S. Government Departments and Agencies will include: the U.S. Department of State (Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and others as identified); U.S. Department of Justice (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Victims of Crime, Federal Bureau of Investigation); the U.S. Department of Defense; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in addition to other relevant agencies and offices; and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
To better understand both the broader development community and USAID’s internal approach to preventing exposure to digital harm, CECA seeks a 20-day consultancy to do the following:
USAID/LAB/CDD/CECA team will lead on this engagement and will be the primary contact with all U.S. Government and external stakeholders. Digital Frontiers project staff will work with USAID/LAB/CDD/ CECA and other U.S. Government stakeholders on a technical level as necessary.
- Stakeholder and Initiative Mapping
- Conduct a USG and global landscape analysis of current policies protecting children from digital harm;
- Identify which Departments and Agencies within the U.S. Government are working on protection of children from digital harm, and outline their key activities and geographic presence;
- Identify donors that are supporting prevention of digital harm to children in their programmatic and geographic priority areas, and their approximate funding levels;
- Identify key organizations and stakeholders working in protecting children from digital harm, their areas of prioritization, and key issues they are addressing;
- Conduct individual interviews with relevant staff from key implementing partners and stakeholders
- Survey implementing partners and groups
- Participate in focus group discussions, speak at convenings, etc.
- Draft a set of recommendations for USAID’s potential role to both contribute and lead digital harm reduction efforts across the digital ecosystem
- Summarize key issues and trends regarding efforts to protect children from digital harm; and
- Identify gaps and areas that need further study/exploration.
- Landscape analysis document
- Contact list of all consulted
- Set of recommendations based on key findings to include:
- How to integrate considerations into program design and implementation
- Strategies to cultivate partnerships and solidify USAID as a leader in protecting children from digital harm
- Debrief presentation of approximately 1 hour, including a slide deck.
- A master’s degree in international development or related field
- Familiarity with USAID and other donor funded projects
- A background in research
- Strong writing skills
- Experience working in digital development realm with a preference given to candidates with an experience in data privacy
- Strong communication skills with a wide variety of stakeholders
- Ability to be flexible in a fast-paced and rapidly changing space
TIMEFRAME AND LOE
Digital Frontiers support under this scope of work is expected to run from June – August 2020 and requests 20 days.