Are we harnessing the power of the digital age equitably? Issues of access, safety, and inclusion continue to remain barriers to a truly equitable internet. The Digital Trust Dialogues, hosted by SheThePeople TV and Google, take these very conversations directly to the youth. Being held in various cities across India, these dialogues engage with college students towards building awareness, engaging in specific issues of their concern and interest, and finding solutions to said problems.

The Digital Trust Dialogues, hosted by SheThePeople TV and Google, take these very conversations directly to the youth.

One such Digital Trust Dialogue was held at Mithibai College on 20th March. It kicked off with a presentation on ‘Online Safety‘ by representatives from Google and was followed by a panel discussion with panelists Kiran Manral and Meghna Pant, moderated by me. As an attendee and moderator, the dialogue gave me an interesting insight into youth awareness and engagement with issues of digital safety and trust.

The engagement by Google focused on the technical aspects of securing oneself online and taking preventive measures to ensure the protection of oneself and one’s private information. The students were enthusiastic about learning new ways to secure their information online and take action to build safer online spaces, they were also well informed of the need for such safety and possible repercussions of not following active measures for one’s digital safety. As budding entrepreneurs, the students also discussed the specific demands of privacy, data protection, and identity theft, for their startup businesses at length.

The engagement by Google focused on the technical aspects of securing oneself online and taking preventive measures to ensure the protection of oneself and one’s private information

The panel was focused on seeing how the internet can be used as a force for good: to build personal networks, connections, and leverage one’s personal work to a wider audience. It examined the role of digital trust in the booming internet economy and the role each young person can play to make the internet more secure and accessible. The panellists raised key points on how digital trust and safety can be built online. Meghna spoke of how social media channels give a voice and platform to individuals globally and help build connections that are otherwise impossible. Kiran touched upon the endorphin hits driven nature of our social media engagement and the need to use the internet smartly for ensuring personal safety.

The panel discussed issues of access to the internet in terms of language, access/ownership of devices to access the internet, and socio-cultural norms restricting internet usage – they stressed on the need for behavioural change and measures of improving access to ensure that the internet is a truly democratic space. They also spoke on the need for identity protection, measures against revenge porn and the need and manner of licensing one’s content online. A common underlying thread was the need to occupy online spaces more and more to build safety, but do this smartly and to not let online engagements drive our sense of self.

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