International child safeguarding through ICT

12 Apr 2019 09:00h - 10:45h

Event report


Moderated by Ms Dyonne Pennings (Technical Adviser Child Sexual Exploitation, Terre des Hommes Netherlands), this session discussed how artificial intelligence (AI) digital saving and online professional platforms are helping protect children online. The panellists gave an overview of initiatives undertaken, using innovative ICT to combat child protection issues: child labour, child sexual exploitation online, exploitation of migrants, and street children.

Mr Thierry Agagliate (Head of the Disruptive Innovation Unit, Terre des Hommes Switzerland) spoke about the genesis of the collaborative ChildHub initiative, a regional, community-created online platform with news, events, different courses and documents on child protection, available in eight East European languages. The objective of the platform is to help develop capacity, enhance the skills and tools of the community working to protect children online. Presently, ChildHub has over 6400 child protection workers, who collaborate both online and in physical activities and meetings. Agagliate highlighted that striking the right balance between central knowledge management and user generated knowledge as an existing challenge. Other factors he highlighted were the economics and questions of sustainability of the model, translations, using new and up to date technology, and geographical expansion.

Ms Peggy Herrmann Ljubicic (Head Child Labor Sector, Terre des Hommes Switzerland) talked about the work done in Africa. The Child Labour Monitoring [SAP] system and the early warning system (EWS) implemented in the gold mines of Burkina Faso, works with community leaders to identify, prevent, and protect children who were at risk of child labour. The activities of the monitoring and warning systems include identifying child labourers, determining the risks they are exposed to, referring the children to services, verifying that they have been removed from the labour force, and tracking them afterwards to ensure that they have satisfactory alternatives. One of the challenges Ljubicic mentioned was the need for capacity building and better understanding of child labour.

She also spoke on the SaVa project (Safe Savings) in Lome, Togo where the objective is to protect street children and migrant youth. The year long pilot project currently supports 150 street children and aims to improve their security, independence, and financial ability using the EcoBank application, allowing them to keep their savings safe. The objective of the initiative is to train students and develop a child-led action research.

A representative of Sweetie Project, Terre des Hommes Netherlands, spoke of the Sweetie Project, where the fictional character Sweetie was used to uncover online sexual perpetrators of children. The speaker highlighted Sweety 1.0 which was launched by four Terre des Hommes researchers who chatted online for two months and managed to identify 1000 predators who were looking for children to sexually exploit. The present Sweetie 2.0, which is a chatbot, was deployed in 2016 as a 12 year old Filipino girl. The next version to be launched will be mobile based.

She also shared that the team was currently brainstorming on improving the AI, including audio recordings while debating whether to incorporate predictive policies.

There was a discussion on how to start projects where technology companies, academics, and child protection activists can came together for such initiatives. Agagliate shared that they were trying to address a large scale problem at low cost and reduce human error. Ljubicic shared that the SaVa project was based on the innovative idea exchange campaign.

Responding to a question about the need to balance ethics and rights while using technology, Agagliate stated that both objectives are not mutually exclusive and could be addressed on a case to case basis. The representative of Sweetie project suggested there was a need to deliberate whether there would be any difference between the way an NGO’s and a government’s use of the data generated from the platform Sweetie.



By Amrita Choudhury