Is Mobile Wallet the Future of Money?

Is Mobile Wallet the Future of Money?

Digital Wallet

In order to promote paperless economy, government of India has initiated Digital India which has led to the spread of digital payments on a large scale. In fact, post post-demonetisation, digital wallet became a necessity. Be it a mobile payment options, or something as basic as acceptability by merchants and consumers, mobile wallets in India got on an exponential rise. Though mobile wallets are still in a budding stage, there is wide acceptability, and the speed at which mobile wallets are rising is incredible.

By using a digital wallet, users can complete purchases easily and quickly with near-field communications technology. Countless people across the nation are becoming increasingly comfortable with making payments through their mobile phones. With a certain degree of comfort setting in, a phone turning into a means to transact is natural and will become second nature in a few years.

India has witnessed a gradual shift from cash to digital and the major factor that has been instrumental in this digital shift is the unparalleled growth of mobile and internet services.

As the RBI has been prompt in taking steps to support the use of e-money, most banks already have their dedicated mobile wallets.  Recently they have introduced support for money transfer between online wallets too.

Mobile wallets have evolved with time as now they are packed with user-friendly features, simple interfaces and attractive discount offers. They are more secure than carrying actual cash—an attractive appeal for the tech-savvy generation. To create this huge cultural shift, people were induced by various incentives.

Future of mobile wallets

The future of mobile wallets and other mobile payments solutions looks bright. All thanks to the number of internet users that is expected to touch the 650-million mark by 2020. The digitally-savvy customers are preferring the convenience of digital money.

Considering the current scenario, it is very much possible that digital wallets, instead of being limited to a simple, stored-value account, mobile wallet can evolve to be a complete financial management tool. Still there is a lot to be explored in this area because the digital payments scenario is still in its teething stage. The demand for p2p payments and e-commerce, among other factors, will continue to grow and encourage the increased use of mobile wallets.

In order to harness the potential of mobile payments, few key challenges have to be handled, tactfully. There is a requirement of creating a sustainable and reliable ecosystem that offers diversity in terms of payments, savings, insurance, credit and more. This technological paradigm shift needs to be pushed through promoting education regarding the advantages and convenience of digital wallet among people who are still not convinced. There is a need of a dedicated boost to support the financial inclusion factor of mobile wallet especially in remote places. A multi-pronged effort across the nation, needs to be implemented to make people understand the relevance of mobile wallets in daily life. After all consumer adoption and preferences reign supreme.

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The key drivers of AR/VR adoption in India

The key drivers of AR/VR adoption in India

You’re sitting on your sofa. You want to play a race game. You issue a command to the glasses you are wearing and a virtual road appears in front of your eyes. Welcome to the world of Augmented Reality (AR) where the virtual world meets the real world.

Virtual Reality
Arguments reality and Virtual reality is trending in India and it has impacted various industries in the country, such as consumer goods, retail, real estate, and automotive. The advent of 4G technology and high-speed communication combined with the increasing number of smartphone users has led to this revolution.

The availability of entry-level VR headsets in the market, a push from the mobile device companies have become instrumental in developing interest for VR gear among mobile users.

Here are few use-cases of digital reality across various domains

Retail– Even when you’re armed with precise measurements, trying to imagine exactly how that stunning new sofa will look in your living room is not an easy task. In order to make the task easy for the consumer a big retail home furnishing company used arguments reality. Through the use of AR, smartphone users can scan the catalog and open additional information about the product. A virtual version of the new sofa, desk or bookcase with the room in the background is shown onscreen to give them a fair idea how the furniture is going to look in their home.

Government services– AR enabled interactive training makes it possible for agents to simulate scenarios where trainees can see and interact with virtual environments.  VR and AR products and services is not just useful for entertainment sector but Government can make use of these for customs and border protection by making it easier to simulate scenarios for virtual training.

Education- AR/VR could witness high utilization in Edutech domain. It could be of immense help by employing virtual teaching, digital learning and development methods in schools and colleges.

Health– AR is one of the most promising digital technologies. It has the potential to change healthcare and medicine completely. In AR, users do not lose touch with reality and it puts information into eyesight as fast as possible. These distinctive features enable AR to become a driving force in the future of medicine.

Aerospace- Dangerous or difficult to replicate scenarios can be safely simulated with Augmented and Virtual Reality aerospace applications. This allows trainees to repeatedly practice crucial scenarios while preventing damage to equipment and avoiding bodily harm.

Overall, across domains, AR/VR is changing how products and services are developed and delivered, which is transforming into increased productivity and operational efficiencies. It has the potential to become the foundation of next-gen computing.

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Progress Always Involves Risk, But Managing Risk Ensures You Lead

Progress Always Involves Risk, But Managing Risk Ensures You Lead

The outcomes of business activities always have some elements of risk. This includes strategic failure, operational failure, financial failure, market disruption environmental disaster or regulatory violation. Proper risk management provides a mechanism for identifying risks which represent potential pitfalls. There is a need to adopt holistic approach to risk management.

EnterpriseRiskManagement

Traditionally, risks have been managed in companies independently by respective functional managers. But this risk management fails to recognize that different risks can overlap and cancel out with each other or can even concentrate together to hinder achievement of organizational goals.

How Enterprise Risk Management started?

The Integrated Framework of the COSO Enterprise Risk Management in 2004 was a landmark in the history of risk management. This framework provided guidance to the management teams, to implement their risk management programs.  Therefore in most organisations a new function called risk management was established which attempted to identify and mitigate risks, which were most often financial, operational in nature.

Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) overcomes the problem by taking a broad, top-down, holistic and strategic approach to managing risks with a ‘portfolio view’. It incorporates risk management into all major aspects of an organization, be strategy formulation, reporting, compliance, or daily operations.

With globalization, more and more Indian companies are expanding their operations into newer geographies and are getting themselves listed in foreign exchanges. These companies are getting  exposed to potentially newer and greater risks arising from different economic, political, cultural, and other global uncertainties. Indian companies these days are also enjoying funds from foreign investors and providing outsourcing services to foreign lands. This makes the foreign investors and foreign buyers of outsourcing services exposed to various risks, which they need to be informed about. Such developments have made adoption of ERM very critical for the success and growth of the companies in India.

Risk Management should not be viewed as a mere process, but as the culture, capabilities that help an organisation survive and thrive. So, the focus should be no longer only on identifying risks to executing strategy but to evaluate how strategy aligns to the organisation’s mission, vision, core values. This enhanced coverage of risk management should help in ensuring that stakeholder value can be created, preserved and realized.

The evaluation of strategic options would require that strengths and weaknesses of all alternatives are considered, including how the strategy aligns with the organisation’s mission. The risk profile of each strategy would have been thoroughly considered, before embarking upon the chosen one. Risk indicators and response can be thought through, based on the profile of the strategy.  The organization is in a state of readiness to take on the uncertain times that we live in.

Thoughtful ERM programs help companies anticipate, adapt and respond to change. They also focus management efforts and resources on the risks and opportunities that truly matter in terms of their impact on strategy and performance harnessing the true value of Enterprise Risk Management.

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India is adopting the culture of co-working space and startup venture.

India is adopting the culture of co-working space and startup venture. 

Co-working spaces today are actively attracting startups, in fact, the real beauty of a co-working space is the community, it is a diverse environment that facilitates exchange of ideas and promotes collaboration.  Let’s delve deep into what exactly goes on within co-working spaces.

Co-Working space
People opt for co-working space due to high cost of real-estate costs and social entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups and small businesses looking for a footprint in big metros. There is no doubt that the Indian start-up ecosystem has come a long way, and is now being supported by a slew of initiatives, like the central government’s Startup India. Co-working spaces act as a fulcrum of this ecosystem. Aside from providing flexible, convenient and affordable space, co-working spaces provide ample opportunities for young entrepreneurs to learn, network and grow. Through targeted workshops, networking events, introductions and mentoring sessions; the co-working space acts as a hub for all things an aspiring entrepreneur needs to become a successful one. These collaborative communities reside in co-working spaces; no wonder co-working has become the new buzzword.

Digital/business nomads, expats and others travelling to India for work for a few months are also joining the co-working revolution. So are large IT & BFSI companies to cope with rising rentals and shortage of ready-to-move grade A offices in prime property markets across India. In fact, some companies now base their client project teams out of co-working spaces, to let them remain close to the clients. Making use of co-working space reduces about 30% cost of the company. Rising cost consciousness, new generation collaboration and delivery platforms, digital workflows, dependable tech infrastructure and a thriving start-up eco-system are expected to continue to boost the trend of co-work sharing spaces in the country.

International players starting to enter the Indian scheme of things which is a good development. With lot of customized events today taking place across India, entrepreneurs have lots to cheer about as far as connecting with the right resources and obtaining learning opportunities is concerned.

As far as co-working operators go, there are several who are following a simple rental arbitrage model – the old business centre/serviced office model. Although there is a market for this, I believe we are at the cusp of change. In every industry, customers now need to be engaged, not just sold to – they need to feel a connection with who they work with, and also where they work. Commercial spaces are going through this very change, and co-working is the disruptor that will bring engagement and sexy back to the commercial real-estate space.

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Will 2018 be kind to startups in India?

Will 2018 be kind to startups in India?

Startups face a number of challenges when embarking on their entrepreneurial journey – according to NASSCOM data, the standard mortality rate is around 25%.

In 2015, about 140 startups shut shop in India; in 2016, about 212 startups closed doors—50% higher than the previous year; the rate for 2017 planed out to 25% as large-scale startup hubs, accelerators, and investors cropped up across the country. To help the sector, government went to the extent of redefining the meaning of a “startup” by raising the age limit to 7 years from the date of incorporation (10 years for Biotech firms). From linking villages with the Start-up India programme to mega-sized accelerators and spirited investors, a slew of regulatory changes, activities and initiatives helped the startup sector emerge as the next big theme for economic growth.

Today, India is among the top five countries in the world in terms of startups. Its consumer demographics and extensive urbanisation continues to channel large-scale investment opportunities. The number of tech and non-tech startups cropping up every year only continues to the rise, irrespective of the shutdowns. It is projected that by 2020 there will be over 12,000 startups in the country, changing the way the markets are perceived and work. Until 2016, it was a trend among investors to make an early entry, even before the start of a firm. However, 2018 started on a bleak note with the causality list taking on a more serious turn: a Hong Kong-based tech startup accelerator, Jaarvis, started writing off investments in its portfolio and shutting down its India operations. Other startup accelerators in India are not doing good as well and are taking parting shots in getting their business model right. All this begs the question: Is there a market for all these startups?

According to an analysis report of startup postmortems, the first and topmost reason for startup mortality was ‘a lack of market need’ for it. Most failed startups relied on perceived solutions to implied needs. Market research was comfortably ignored, placing the onus on VCs to do the due diligence. For many startups, obtaining the seed fund was an end in itself. As seven out of ten well-funded startups failed, it also debunked a major myth; Scalability. Most of the high profile startups that shut down shop grew too fast and expanded even faster, so scalability to meet the demand was not the problem. Soon, the reality struck.

India’s vast unorganised market was a logistical nightmare to even companies having a strong network and financial backing. High smartphone penetration seems to incorrectly warrant more tech solutions. However, tech solutions were considered low-risk by investors, only to have them make a hasty retreat within a year or two.

As Prime Minister Modi’s “Startup India” is nearing completion of two years, startups are already yearning for the magic of 2015 when they savoured being the flavour of the season, which saw the emergence of a number of home-grown unicorns across the country. However, a new class of investors are stepping in to bring about the turnaround. For instance, organisations such as Tata Trust are planning to help startups in India that are categorised as high-risk and have uncertain business models. This is a space where no angel investors or venture capitalists would put their money in. For a change, these investors are looking forward to support ideas having a social impact. As one official put it candidly – in order to have a deep and irreversible impact, one has to try different things, and not use the same approach again and again. The coming days will witness the funding companies taking the lead from the startups. But will it energise the sector? One only needs to wait and watch what 2018 holds.

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Building a Knowledge City: Lessons from Melbourne

Building a Knowledge City: Lessons from Melbourne

Striving for the label ‘Smart City’ or ‘Knowledge City’ is no longer a simple administrative prerogative. It involves a lot more than public will for a city to build capacities and generate the momentum required to gain visibility as a ‘Knowledge City’ in the region. What can be even more demanding are the accompanying proactive measures needed to ensure that such a city retains and strengthens its prime position among the comity of knowledge cities of the world.

‘Knowledge Cities’ base their ability to create wealth depending on these three factors: (i) capability to generate ideas, (ii) exchange ideas, and (ii) influence knowledge networks. Both private and public sectors play an equal and complementary role in valuing and nurturing knowledge, supporting knowledge dissemination and discovery, and harnessing knowledge to create products and services that add value. Many developed cities around the world are now moving towards economies that are predominantly based on their knowledge capabilities. San Francisco, Singapore, Manchester, Montreal, Helsinki, Birmingham… the list goes on.

Today, each state or administrative district in every nation has a city labelled as a Knowledge City. There may be reasons for such categorisation; for instance, robust economic performance in knowledge-intensive sectors, conditions conducive to innovation and entrepreneurialism, availability of a skilled workforce, and presence of knowledge infrastructure, such as universities, libraries and laboratories. The challenges faced by each of these cities may be unique to their region, but then the connected world poses a different set of demands that every knowledge city can ill afford to ignore. Some of the demands that knowledge cities have to reckon with include:

  • Integration with the globalised world
  • Growing global competition among ‘knowledge capitals’
  • Mobility of talent, firms and investment
  • Emergence of disruptive technology and its changing role in research, learning and innovation
  • A high degree of liveability – from infrastructure to cultural activities

The above unenviable set of challenges, along with a strong contention from Asian city economies, makes it worthy to observe how Melbourne strives to carve out a niche for itself and defend its position. In many ways, Melbourne’s challenges are not unlike our own Thiruvananthapuram’s, but there is one crucial aspect that makes a world of difference. Melbourne already is a burgeoning knowledge capital:  The knowledge sector contributes more than 50% its gross regional product, with the financial services industry being the largest contributor. The city’s action plan envisages different goals, roles and initiatives that help Melbourne contribute to the growth of knowledge-intensive activities. From retaining and attracting knowledge talent, firms and investment to achieving recognition of the knowledge sector’s strength and value, Melbourne’s action plan is a case study in how to deal with emerging realisations proactively.

 

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Melbourne’s holistic strategy helps in creating a flourishing knowledge economy and in building an entrepreneurial culture that can transform local economies and put it on the global map. For instance, Goal #2 focuses on Melbourne’s strong arts and culture scene, which are attractive to knowledge workers and add to the city’s liveability quotient. This focused approach enabled Melbourne to win recognition as the Most Admired Knowledge City at the Knowledge Cities World Summit (2013). Every aspect of the strategy acknowledges the importance of collaboration and partnership between the city, the knowledge sector, and the wider community.

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Blockchain’s Silent Blitz In Kerala

Blockchain’s Silent Blitz In Kerala

Kochi’s Maker Village has had a few reasons to be in an upbeat mood from early 2017 onwards. For the uninitiated, Maker Village is an electronics incubator that promotes the development of innovative consumer electronics by focusing on emerging technologies of a disruptive nature. When the buzz around Blockchain swept the globe, Maker Village realised the immense potential of this new technology. Whether governments around the world like it or not, Blockchain is the necessary link for developing IoT-based, machine-to-machine payment solutions. As word spread among the IT community in Kerala, Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management-Kerala (IIITM-K), one of the stakeholders of Maker Village project, got wind of the trend and set the ball rolling.

Soon enough, Kerala became the second state in the country (after Karnataka) to get its own Blockchain Academy in 2017. IIITM-K set up the unique Kerala Blockchain Academy (KBA) in association with the international learning and business development platform, Blockchain Education Network (BEN), to spearhead research, innovation, and impart technical consultancy.

Blockchain: the most promising innovation since the Internet

Known as the backbone technology behind Bitcoin, and all cryptocurrencies, Blockchain has the potential to make processes more democratic, secure, transparent, and efficient. This is going to transform multiple industries and governance. In Blockchain, the history of all transactions is stored as ‘blocks’ and distributed across decentralised peer-to-peer networks. After validating transactions, all blocks are linked from the beginning of the chain to the most recent. This is Blockchain, in short.

Banking, healthcare, and governance are the three major avenues where this technology’s impact will be deeply felt, and it will also open up new avenues in both the software and hardware sectors.

According to experts, Maker Village can leverage this technology to great effect as Blockchain not only provides a tamper-proof data storage system but also facilitates distributed computing and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Challenges to Overcome

According to a recent survey by Deloitte, organisations keen on using Blockchain faced more challenges in the adoption phase than in the implementation phase.

It classified the challenges broadly under the following six major areas:

Lack of internal awareness

Identification of business case and business partners

Selection of vendor/platform

Partner on-boarding

Development environment and security related issues

Integration

 

On deep dive into each of the areas, it was discovered that the challenges related to adoption and using case identification were the most difficult to surmount. It is in this context that one should look at the trailblazing initiative of IIITM-K in setting up the Kerala Blockchain Academy (KBA). On its part, KBA has partnered with organisations from academia and industry for collaborative efforts on creating awareness on this technology. The academy has also recently signed a MoU with UST Global for recruiting and training Blockchain aspirants.

Welcome the Disruptor!

According to a study by the World Economic Forum, banks and regulators around the world are still in the prototyping phase with Blockchain. Most of the global central banks are seriously considering this technology, and 80% of the banks are planning to initiate projects in Blockchain and its distributed ledger technology (DLT).

With Blockchain well on its course to become the new normal in the world of financial services, IIITM-K is keeping a close watch on the potential Blockchain use cases. This can positively disrupt traditional business models. Moreover, with the full digitisation of Kerala, huge volumes of data are being generated every day. This is where the state will fully leverage this technology’s inherent advantages to execute transactions quicker, ensure cost efficient operations, and provide transparency to its citizens, for an enhanced customer experience.

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Co-working Spaces: Matchmaking for Startups

Co-working Spaces: Matchmaking for Startups

Co-working spaces have evolved from the shared workspace concept to a new holistic level. Today, a co-working space is a place where people come together and integrate work with their personal lives, eventually building a sense of belonging to a community. In common parlance, co-working refers to the sharing of a working environment. Entrepreneurs, self-employed, or staff working for different companies may opt for co-working to optimise space and manage costs.

A large number of freelancers, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and start-ups are opting for the flexibility to use space and resources on demand. The millennials are not the ones who would be willing to sign long-term leases. Despite their loathing for established practices, they make good with a strong work ethic. This aspect, along with a growing entrepreneur community, has accelerated the rise in co-working spaces. Therefore, the new work environment is attuned to emphasise values such as flexibility, autonomy and choice. Co-working spaces are successful because they are reflective of the new demands of the new generation of workforce. In fact, even big corporations are sending their employees to co-working spaces. For instance, HSBC Bank (in Hong Kong) offers its employees the option to work from a co-working space. It has been observed that such “co-working” employees are happier and more productive with the new way to work. Isn’t it exciting to see how co-working is shaping the old models of working? Another aspect that spurs the co-working space lies in staffing problems. Talent retention is becoming a challenge for big companies. Unlike the earlier generation of workers, the new age worker likes to work in a physically and mentally motivating environment.

What brings people together in a co-working space?

Opportunities for collaboration and mentorship are the driving force that motivates people and companies to gravitate towards a co-working space. Not just business prospects, but also a great sense of belonging brings people together. There are no tangible reporting lines here, only communities. Discussions relating to food, friendship and business fill the air, giving the space the apt amount of gravitas for equitable working. Even big corporations such as Coca-Cola are creating such spaces on their campuses and are inviting other freelancers to come and work there! Companies are coming to terms with the fact that internal work processes may not be up to the mark when it comes to ideation, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.

If community is the bedrock of a co-working space, then technology is the infrastructure that brings it all together. People are always on the Internet all the time through different devices, an aspect that is changing the way we treat workspaces. As co-working offices are creating a whole new ecosystem, it is giving way to another, more specialised micro-environment where “connected” professionals such as lawyers, counsellors, accountants and others are beginning to play a role.

Looking ahead, one can safely say that co-working spaces will no longer be limited to top-tier cities. In fact, there are more than 11,000 co-working spaces in the world right now—all in a matter of a few years. As many new entrants in this field are increasingly moving into second- and third-tier cities, co-working will usher in a new way of working as a much older workforce gets acclimatised to this concept.

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BITCOIN & THE FELLOWSHIP OF DISRUPTION

BITCOIN & THE FELLOWSHIP OF DISRUPTION

Today, Bitcoin is becoming an issue. While some governments worldwide are sending out warnings, others are warming up to the sustained performance of the Bitcoin market against all odds. Traditional banks intend to lead a frontal assault against Bitcoin, as Operation Tarnish Image is underway. Meanwhile, the Bitcoin markets march with self-assured hubris and even promise freedom from the traditional banking system!

Ever since its status as a “proper currency” was acknowledged formally in 2010—thanks to its acceptance by marquee businesses such as Expedia, WordPress, and Microsoft—Bitcoin has come a long way. Its value soared from around $1150 (in Jan 2017) to an all-time high of over $17,382 (in Dec 2017). It is now being said that the supply of Bitcoin would slow down owing to its high demand. News reports suggest that the wider cryptocurrency market is seeing gains. In fact, the top-10 cryptocurrencies by market capitalisation are witnessing price increases every day. As it stands, the total market capitalisation of cryptocurrencies is roughly at $456 billion. Perhaps when the total market value of Bitcoin exceeds $500 billion, India’s Central bank would favourably toy with the idea of purchasing digital currencies. At any rate, there is no sign of Bitcoin value falling in the near future. Clearly, these are times for investing in Bitcoin.

Let us look at some of the key drivers that buttress the growth of this new form of currency.

Firstly, the highly encrypted nature of Bitcoin transactions is fool-proof. Each transaction or money transfer would be safe without the risk of any data leakage. It is widely considered as the fastest method of transferring money online. To make a payment, the individual has to approach an agent, who transfers the Bitcoin equal to the money’s worth immediately to the payee. In addition, Bitcoin’s encryption contains multiple levels of cryptographic coding, which guarantees top-notch protection against frauds or attempts of online theft. This is a far cry from the error-prone and vulnerable firewall protection that traditional banks depend on to ensure safety to monetary transactions.

Secondly, the value of a Bitcoin is entirely dependent on market demands; Bitcoin exchanges determine the value unlike the conventional currency systems that are controlled, monitored and regulated by specific authorities.

Thirdly, there is investor anonymity. Receiving Bitcoin payment doesn’t require a traditional bank account, bank cards, etc. People simply need a reliable Internet connection and designated software to transfer and receive the money. As these transactions are free from banks’ watchful eyes, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will bring communities closer through peer-to-peer (P2P) transaction and crowdfunding platforms.

Lastly, there is no transaction fee associated with every movement of the currency. Depending on the agent they approach, people have to pay a minimum service charge while sending or receiving money. Unlike the banking system, you would not find any arbitrary imposition of huge processing fee or service charge on transactions.

Bitcoin has disrupted the markets, governments, and institutions. However, enterprising governments around the world are warming up to the realities and possibilities of giving Bitcoin a larger room as befitting its growing status. All the growing clamour begs the question: What next with Bitcoin? Now, with cryptocurrencies being preferred over gold by investors, it only remains to be seen whether Bitcoin will replace gold as the prime medium of exchange and investment. Or, maybe we are in the throes of preparing for a decentralised economy. Or, arrest the rising inflationary trends… the possibilities are numerous with Bitcoin.

Today, the fastest growing Bitcoin markets are Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The GCC and African Union countries are not far behind. Maybe there is a lesson or two hidden in these markets.

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India’s Battle To Keep Our Children Safe Online

India’s Battle To Keep Our Children Safe Online

The proportion of people aged between 15 and 24 who are online is estimated to be over 70 per cent worldwide, according to an ITU report. The report also goes to add that more than half of the world’s households have access to the Internet. While all this may draw a rosy picture of digitally empowered societies, the Internet has also opened the door for exploitation of the vulnerable. Today’s generation of connected, savvy children has become the unwitting victim of numerous abuses online.

Studies into children and young people’s online behaviour indicate that they use the Internet for activities such as research, social messaging, gaming and learning activities. Eventually, even before they could realise it, children end up being victims of cyber bullying, inappropriate contact, identity theft, fraud and exposure to adult content. In Indian societies, it wreaks havoc on not only the lives of children and their parents, but also on the very social fabric of the community that they live in. To set the context, cyber safety does not end with just protecting children; it invariably extends to families, communities, and consumers.

What we need is an ecosystem that fosters the undertaking of steps to support digital safety, security and privacy. It is important that for our children to develop digital life skills in a safe environment, the industry and government must work together with experts and advocacy groups to identify and ensure that the Internet evolves in a healthy and responsible way. Globally, online protection for children is a much recognised and discussed topic and an agenda for many governments, but India has taken a longer time to realise it. Given the state of poor digital literacy in India, lack of online safety measure, and the fact that a large percent of children is taking to the Internet and social messaging, there is a rising consensus that protecting today’s children requires a collective effort from all stakeholders, including service providers, content providers, civil society and regulatory authorities.

In September 2016, UNICEF India launched the first comprehensive report on child online safety in India. According to the report, offline forms of crime and violence against children are finding new forms of expression in the online world and their effects on children are alarming. By staying anonymous online and impersonating others, offenders become emboldened to commit offensive and criminal acts, successfully bypassing the deterrent potential of laws. The report goes on to add that cybercrimes against children in India are under-reported and have received very little attention; in fact, such crimes are not included in the National Crime Records Bureau statistics as a separate category.

As a nation, we still lack the ability to protect our children from online abuse and respond effectively to harmful content. In fact, there is widespread lack of awareness about child online abuse and exploitation among parents, teachers, police and policymakers. Responding to these threats does not require the passing of legislation alone.

Given the nature and growth of the Internet, its ecosystem, strengths, and risks, there can be no single agency or government institution that can ensure the safety of children from online threats and violence. It is important that all government institutions, private sector, academia, and civil society to work together to build the mechanism to prevent and respond to the specific threats and risks posed to children.

The cyber safety brigade has a full time job the world over. The list of online risks continues to grow each passing day, the latest being the issue of fake news. It is on such a backdrop that one should welcome a motivated and earnest attempt by Cybersafety India to be the harbinger of change in the country. A brainchild of the global consumer protection activist, Dr. Parry Aftab, Cybersafety India envisages using the power of grassroots volunteers to help deliver its message and assist in the building of a digitally aware community.

Current forms of child online abuse and exploitation in India (Source: UNICEF, 2016)

  • Cyberbullying: Emotional harassment, defamation and social exposure, intimidation, social exclusion
  • Online sexual abuse: Distribution of sexually explicit and violent content, sexual harassment
  • Online sexual exploitation: Production, distribution and use of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), or child pornography, “sextortion”, “revenge pornography”
  • Cyber extremism: Ideological indoctrination and recruitment, threats of extreme violence
  • Online commercial fraud: Identity theft, phishing, hacking, financial fraud
  • Habit formation and online enticement to illegal behaviours: Access to alcohol, cheating, plagiarism, gambling, drug trafficking, sexting and self-exposure
  • Grooming: Preparing a child, significant adults and the environment for sexual abuse and exploitation or ideological manipulation
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