🔬 Thoughts behind the research question

I wanted to expand upon our thoughts on the research question for our proposal at the Stanford Internet Observation Center.

To recap, the research question is:

What key factors constrain the development of online safety skills in the Caribbean? Does uneven technology adoption in the Caribbean affect the vulnerability to online harms, what role does early education have in mitigating them, and do current multistakeholder collaboration initiatives have a significant effect?

Of course, we know that that is not strictly one question. However, it is a central question with three sub-questions directly related to the central question.

So when we’re asking what the key factors constrain the development of online safety skills are, we need to consider the context in the Caribbean, which is often quite different from the context we find in countries and regions like the USA, UK, or Europe and in doing so, we needed to think about the region’s specifics. One of the first things that came up during our brainstorming and our previous research is just how fractured the development of technology adoption is throughout the various islands and countries that make up the Caribbean. Some are way ahead of the curve, and others still need work done to get up-to-speed, as it were.

That implies that any initiative that wishes to develop internet adoption, use, cybersecurity capacity-building, or other digital tool-based systems needs to understand that we have essentially a 100 m race being run by many countries, each starting at a different starting point. Some starting at 80 m while others starting at -20 m!

In subsequent sessions, whilst thinking about this research, we looked at the region’s education system and curriculum(s). We tried to get a quick overview of what they were doing with respect to Online Safety. I’ll leave our initial conclusions to the results of the desk research’s first and second passes; however, it suffices to say that it was a mixed bag. But, in our view, it is primordial to investigate further to try to see the links (or not) between the education systems and how people comport themselves on the Internet. Is there a relation? Is it anecdotal? Does it pass statistical scrutiny? These are all the lines of investigation and sub-sub questions we hope to answer in the research. There are and will be other questions developed throughout the research.

Lastly, the third part of the sub-question refers to some of the initiatives we have seen in the Caribbean to help capacity-build knowledge about online safety on the internet. The question is, what was done? Was it effective? How much of the population was targeted, included and trained? Since we know of some of these projects and some that have subsequently halted, we wanted to get a better understanding of their lasting legacy. Did they change anything, and if so, did the effects last?

Virtually the last thing we did was name our proposal. The title we landed on is: “The Online Safety Digital Divide: Exploring Constraints in Online Safety Skills Development in the Caribbean”.

Matthew Cowen @matthewcowen