EMBRACING the Industry 4.0, the Internet has become an essential part of everyday life, particularly for digital natives — those who are born and brought up in a world with digital technology.
According to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s Internet Users Survey 2018, 30 per cent or the highest percentage of Internet users in the country are young people in their 20s, most of whom are digital natives.
In this digital era, Internet users are susceptible to issues such as online crimes, abuse, threats and conflicts. Last year, more than 10,000 cybersecurity attacks were recorded by CyberSecurity Malaysia.
Therefore, proper oversight in the form of Internet governance — a process where Internet users, developers, network operators, online service providers, governments and international organisations come together to resolve problems related to cyberspace — can help to ensure a safe online environment.
Despite being the main stakeholders of the Internet, the Malaysian youth are mostly missing from important local and international discourse on Internet governance.
Internet Governance Forum (IGF) ambassador Aisyah Shakirah Suhaidi, 24, views this as a huge problem.
The IGF Ambassadors programme is organised by the Internet Society in relation to the annual IGF — a multi-stakeholder forum introduced by the United Nations (UN) to discuss Internet governance.
The forum is open to all stakeholders of the Internet including government authorities, the private sector, civil society as well as technical and academic communities through an open dialogue system.
Aisyah Shakirah said: “Our youth are shaping online culture in many ways. Although we are the most dominant users of the Internet, when it comes to policy discussions, most of us are not at the table.
“When the youth are underrepresented in major policy developments and implementation processes, the future of the Internet will be greatly affected,” said the Universiti Malaya law student from Jitra, Kedah.
Aisyah Shakirah developed an interest in Internet governance at the age of 17, when she began volunteering with the Internet Society Malaysia Chapter (ISOC MY).
“From my involvement there, the UN invited me to attend the World Summit of the Information Society Forum 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland as a speaker representing the youth.
“It was then that I understood that a lot of work goes into making sure that the Internet is a safe, secure and reliable infrastructure. I wanted to be a part of it,” she said.
“I believe I have a responsibility to facilitate change by representing and leading the youth in my country and region to increase their participation in Internet governance.”
She noted that there exists a lack of awareness on fundamental Internet knowledge in Malaysia’s local grassroot communities.
“As a result, many Malaysians are increasingly becoming victims of cyber-attacks such as identity theft, cross-site scripting, Internet scams and online harassment.
“Many are also uninformed about important Internet issues such as online freedom, fake news, censorship and data governance.
“I want to address this by setting up continuous community-based educational initiatives while encouraging local, regional, and global engagement in Internet policy development and implementation processes.”
INTERNET GOVERNANCE FORUM
Last year, Aisyah Shakirah was invited to attend the IGF at the Unesco headquarters in Paris, France.
This opportunity came through the Internet Society IGF 2018 Ambassadors Programme held in collaboration with the UN and the French government.
Out of thousands of applications from around the world, only 14 candidates were selected to be ambassadors representing their respective countries.
Proud to be one of them, Aisyah Shakirah said: “As IGF ambassadors, we were given a number of tasks and responsibilities. Throughout the year, we had to study a number of modules, take part in various online tests and online conference calls, engage in Internet governance-related discussion every week and participate in Twitter discussions.
“In Paris, we were tasked to facilitate collaborative leadership exchanges, speak at sessions, address issues, propose solutions and attend numerous meetings,” said the final-year student.
The forum carried the theme Internet of Trust, which originated from the knowledge that the Internet is increasingly under threat.
Aisyah Shakirah said: “Recently the global Internet has been experiencing a series of cyberattacks that is not only affecting individuals, but also the operations of strategic security services, administration and healthcare.
“It has become a space for hate speech and fake news dissemination as well as the development of criminal organisations and terrorist propaganda. Not only is the Internet under threat, but the Internet itself is starting to be described by some as a threat.
“The question is, how do we deal with the weaknesses and cracks in the system to ensure the stability and security of the Internet, without breaking it apart?”
At IGF 2018, various sessions and dialogues were conducted to discuss these issues.
“For example, there were sessions on how we celebrate emerging technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things while not compromising the ethical, legal and security challenges they pose.
“There were also sessions on the risk of and responses to online child sexual exploitation, the need for Internet Protocol version 6 for the future of games, refugee rights online, data governance in smart cities, how to prepare Gen YZ for their future career as well as the issue of mental health and youth on the cyberspace.
“Currently, a lot of the younger generation are making a career on the Internet through mediums such as YouTube, and they are involved in social media marketing so a proper framework should exist,” added Aisyah Shakirah.
DEVELOPING AN APPLICATION, MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Post-forum, the IGF ambassadors were expected to work on projects or coordinate initiatives and activities within their regions to spread awareness on Internet governance.
So, in March 2019, Aisyah Shakirah represented Malaysia and Southeast Asia at the 64th Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Meeting in Kobe, Japan.
She was among the 12 students selected through the [email protected] Programme which provides funding and coaching to individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 who are interested in actively engaging their regional communities to shape the future of global Internet policy.
Prerequisites include displaying interest in ICANN and the Internet through examples of current work or research.
At the meeting, Aisyah Shakirah delivered a speech on a project that her team at ISOC MY has been working on.
“We have developed a crowdsourcing mobile application called MyHelper to help and empower Asean B40 women so that they can earn extra income by offering services such as cooking, baking and sewing. As of now, the app is only available on Android.
“We provide low-income or unemployed women with training to equip them with the essential entrepreneurial skills.
“This project provides opportunities for women to develop their skills through information communications technology, empowers women to start their own businesses, and use the Internet to improve their livelihoods,” said Aisyah Shakirah, hoping that her speech would attract regional partnership.
UNIVERSITIES AND INTERNET GOVERNANCE
Professor Mohamed Ridza Wahiddin, from the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), said that academic institutions can play a role in encouraging more youth involvement in Internet governance.
The Kulliyyah of Information and Communication Technology (KICT) lecturer said: “Universities can raise awareness to students and lecturers on matters connected to the digital environment.
“We can produce educational materials on Internet issues as well as support the coordination between youth groups and organisations.”
At IIUM, an initiative called the IIUM Siber Sejahtera Flagship Project was spearheaded by a team of academics and students to impact local, national and global communities.
It is a part of the awareness and advocacy campaign by KICT, which engages the neighbouring communities of IIUM to be cyber-literate and ethical in cyberspace.
“Our first target group is the Orang Asli community wherein we provide training for their youth to be safe in cyberspace.
“To ensure the sustainability of the project, a group of trainers among the Orang Asli is identified so that the knowledge on cybersecurity can be further propagated within the community,” said Mohamed Ridza.
Determined to develop future talents and instil them with values in cybersecurity, the second target group consists of students, teachers and parents in select schools.
“This is to keep them safe from online threats including cyberbullying, violation of privacy, pornography and Internet addiction while promoting virtues.”
Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) senior lecturer Dr Norshakirah Abdul Aziz said that students especially in the field of information and technology can learn about Internet governance through their university courses and projects.
“Youth or university students should first understand what is actually being governed. In our faculty, we have introduced the subject, Computer Ethics and Cyber Law.
“It is designed to examine the ethical issues surrounding Internet use and the connection between ethics and technology. Our aim is to ensure students know how to apply their knowledge in computer ethics.
“We also want students to demonstrate social responsibilities in relation to computer ethics and the cyberspace. UTP will mould students and develop them to utilise the technology in the right way. Students need to develop the right values and attitudes related to IT governance,” said the computer and information sciences lecturer.
Norshakirah added: “In this course, students will learn about cyber crimes such as computer hacking, privacy infringement, software and product privacy, computing systems and the ethics of software development.
“In the legal aspect, they will learn about the basics of Contract Law, Computer Crimes Act 1997, Digital Signature Act 1997 and the Communications and Multimedia Act. When they study the cyber laws and cases, they can definitely see the impact of Internet governance.
“UTP utilises the active learning and problem-solving method for teaching and learning. Throughout the semester, students will be actively involved in projects related to computer ethics.”
Universities can also lead research projects and consultancy services to help the community.
“In UTP’s High Performance Cloud Computing Data Centre and Centre for Research in Data Science, I lead a very dedicated team to conduct research into IT governance.
“Internet governance is essential to ensure that data is properly managed by the assigned parties. Individuals need to treat their data and information as assets. If a problem occurs when the information is not adequately secured, it can lead to issues such as data breach.
“Many organisations came to realise that Internet governance is critical after many cases of data breaches. So, it is necessary to have someone who can control the data,” said Norshakirah, adding that according to a research conducted, IT governance is an effective management framework.
For Taylor’s University computer science and forensics student Priyanka S. Jayakumar, she had come across the concept of Internet governance a few times whilst studying and researching.
“I understand that Internet governance is all about the rules, standards, practices and especially policies evolving around global cyberspace.
“I know there are laws and acts pertaining to Internet governance but many people aren’t aware of issues related to it,” said Priyanka.
She noted the importance of Internet governance for youth as they are the major age group for Internet users.
“It’s important for youths to know the do’s and don’ts on the Internet and to know the indications when one is faced with something off online. That kind of awareness only comes with proper education and enforcement from a young age.
“More people should be aware of the consequences of certain online activities and learn how to be safe in the virtual world,” said the 21-year-old, who added that awareness can be spread through education, public forums, campaigns and the use of simple and non-technical terms.
“A compulsory subject focusing on Internet awareness should be created and taught in schools. Everyone should be aware of online safety and the new threats and security breaches that are happening on the Internet.
“There should be no room for any uncertainty for young people when it comes to the Internet so they know how to exercise their rights. For example, in the case of cyber-bullying, people should know to contact the relevant authorities to report this incident,” said the aspiring computer forensics investigator.
“Public forums will not only help to educate people about the Internet and its policies but the questions that come from the public may help experts in identifying any loopholes in their policy-making.
“Since the public has no idea about technical computing matters, we have to make it easier for them to understand by avoiding jargon when describing anything regarding the Internet. Using more friendlier terms will help people understand things better and therefore, not be afraid of the computing world.”