Meta hosted a virtual forum around digital literacy in order to better help people in the MENA region navigate digital platforms. The forum was broadcast live on Meta Arabia, Meta’s official Facebook page in the Middle East and North Africa region. As part of this engagement, the forum explored the importance of digital literacy programs for creating a safer online experience for young users and reducing the risk of misbehavior in the real world.
The event brought together leading organizations advancing work on youth wellbeing to discuss the role of digital literacy in promoting the safe and responsible use of digital platforms to fight misinformation, hate speech, bullying and harassment, online safety, privacy and digital citizenship among youth between the ages of 13 and 18 years in MENA.
Rama Halaseh, Policy Programs at Meta for the MENAT, commented: “We are proud to host such outstanding to discuss the importance of training and educating the youth of the MENA region on digital literacy and citizenship. Digital citizenship involves using technology responsibly for any individual who engages with social media, the internet, and other digital tools to interact with other members of society. We aim to partner with multiple organizations across the region on youth digital literacy as a key pillar of the work we continue to do in the MENA to create a safe environment for everyone engaging responsibly on digital platforms.”
SecDev Foundation and Arab Digital Expression Foundation participated in the first panel around the importance of understanding digital citizenship, which was moderated by Rama Halaseh, Policy Programs Manager for MENAT at Meta. On the second panel, which was moderated by Suzan El Sayed, AMET’s Safety Policy Manager, Sourire de Reda and Himaya Foundation discussed building an Ecosystem for Prevention and Protection.
Ranwa Yehia, Co-Founder/Chairperson of the Arab Foundation for Digital Expression (ADEF), Egypt stated: In designing programmes on digital literacy for youth, attention to long term impact, criticality and fun exposure and practice to latest trends in technology are essential.
There are many challenges people face when navigating digital platforms, including misinformation, hate speech, bullying and harassment, online safety, and privacy. Across the MENA region, efforts on digital literacy and education are sporadic, and limited in scope and impact, Meta acknowledges these concerns and aspires to make a real difference, it aims to serve as a thought leader of digital literacy for youth in the MENA region.
Dr. Raed M. Sharif, Senior Regional Manager of Salam (the Digital Resilience for Women and Youth in MENA Program), at SecDev Foundation stated: “Digital citizenship and resilience skills are crucial for Arab youth’s future. Whether it is basic digital literacy skills such as using digital tools or more advanced ones such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, Arab youth need to be digitally safe, productive and innovative in order to capitalize on the many socioeconomic, political and cultural opportunities offered by the digital environment. Digital citizenship and wellbeing can provide young people with a sense of safety as well as empower them to positively influence their surroundings.”
Myriam Bahri, Director General of Sourire de Reda: “Sourire de Reda has been working for over a decade to prevent suicide among youngsters. We believe in the importance of spreading messages of life, hope and kindness through awareness campaigns. We are confident that social media play a tremendous role in this matter. We also trust peer prevention to be one of the most efficient ways to prevent suicide among teenagers, as they identifiy more easlily to a person their age and going through the same life experiences”.
Meta understands the importance of understanding the needs of different communities and youth across the region. In order to do so, Meta will work on leveraging collective efforts and building partnerships with organizations on the ground. Meta will convene with stakeholders, share resources, and invest programmatically in educating young users about responsible and safe use of digital platforms across the region. Meta is also eager to work with local partners across the MENA region to address local community needs and address challenges as they arise.