On Friday, April 23, 2021, Halle Lawson ’21, Caroline Chen ’21, Branton Hung ’21, Dylan Clement ’21, Yeseo Kim ’22, and Emilia Volke ’21 pitched their solution to the question: “How can we bolster the digital safety of marginalized communities?” at the Global Ideas Initiative (GII) Virtual Symposium. In consultation with industry professionals, the students worked together for months to create an innovative, forward-thinking response to this issue. Read their full pitch below.
How can we bolster the safety of marginalized communities?
Today, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our kitchen tables have become home offices and bedrooms are classrooms. COVID has made remote work and study facts of life. In a society filled with technology, students without access to the highest quality of cyber knowledge or security are being left behind. Schools in lower socioeconomic areas are unable to give their students this necessary education. This lack of education leaves students vulnerable to digital threats.
So, we asked ourselves, how can we give every student, regardless of family income, the digital education they need in a way that is effective for their learning and understanding?
The growth of the digital world has transformed the globe. Every day new technologies are being developed and created. However, this rapid growth has left the national curriculum behind. For instance, the current Ontario digital safety and computer science curriculum was written in 2008 has not been changed since.
Due to the slow change, people have not learned the new ways that their privacy can be breached. In fact, 64 percent of Americans have never checked to see if they were affected by a data breach. On top of that 65 percent reported that their schools have never offered courses on this matter. This shows that providing education on digital safety is of utmost importance.
In order to attain our goal of making digital security accessible for all, we have designed a Non-Governmental Organisation that targets students of low socioeconomic status. This organization, which we have named ‘Cyber Citizens’, is dedicated to fostering digital safety awareness.
To function, the organization would institute a chapter model to establish communities within various high schools throughout the Greater Toronto Area. This model encourages students to address digital safety issues specific to their own community. It is our hope to ignite a new generation of empowered students who will radiate the significance of cyber stewardship.
While our NGO will update the clubs with information from industry experts, it will not dictate club proceedings. Additionally, Cyber Citizens will supply each chapter with a comprehensive curriculum of cybersecurity knowledge, coding skills, and proactive hacking class modules.
With the world relying increasingly more on technology, Cyber Citizens addresses the problem by placing the ideas of empowerment, education, and advocacy into the hands of students who need it the most. In partnership with the Toronto District School Board, we will allow students to take ownership of their education and spread their knowledge throughout their communities.
In terms of funding, our NGO will initially rely on sponsorships from corporations in return for providing digital safety training to their employees, especially for smaller companies who can’t afford professional cybersecurity services. As more chapters are established across schools in the GTA, our headquarters will launch regional fundraising events, and each chapter would be encouraged to host their own fundraisers within their community. Subsequently, we will redistribute the money raised to individual chapters, making sure each of them has sufficient funds to continue digital safety education in their community.
This fiscal management has been proven to work for popular organizations such as MedLife, Oxfam, and Jack.org, however, our organization, Cyber Citizens is the first of its kind that uses this model to promote digital safety for individuals regardless of family income.
As for human resources, we will recruit both paid employees and volunteers. For instance, our content development team will consist mainly of computer science university students.
We will begin to grow the chapters by directly pitching our ideas to the school board, and work on a referral base to further branch more chapters.
Youth and their safety is our top priority. With our NGO, we believe that we can create a world that not only acknowledges but prioritizes digital safety and security education for all Canadian youth, regardless of socioeconomic background. If you could help just one child protect themselves online, why wouldn’t you?
Overall being a part of GII this year has been a wonderful experience for all of us at Lakefield and we hope it carries on for our school in the future.