Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Arab Countries Hold Unique Opportunities To Fend Off Cyber Harm

By David Simms, Senior Contributor
The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

Sexual harassment is a global problem but a surprising fact is that in most Arab countries it is still relatively new. Prior to the 1980's, Arab women in general tended to stay at home most of the time, only leaving when accompanied by men. We've all heard of such things and the challenges Arab women have been forced to endure. 

There has been a change. Gradually, women began working more outside the home and this practise has become near commonplace and seen as acceptable today in Arab regions. What was once taboo, is now the norm. As such, harassment in all forms against women has increased dramatically as one might imagine. It's obvious cause is that since women are much more visible in the public eye holding public jobs, there will be greater numbers of harassment incidents. This is exactly what is being experienced. Now with the wild-west of the internet becoming ever easier to access, Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and others, are concerned that cyber-bullying and harassment will become as prevalent in their culture as it is elsewhere in the world.  

A recent study determined that only 50% of the Saudi Arabian population has access to computers and even less, only an approximate 30%, have even heard of cyber-bullying or cyber-harassment. Now, together with gradual changes already taking place in Arab cultures especially regarding women, Arab officials are concerned that easy and widespread internet access may seriously jeopardise their traditions and culture further placing women and children in harm’s way. It is only a matter of time that the cyber-harassment crisis reaches the masses in the Middle East. 

Arab nations have a unique opportunity to practise a bit of foresight. They can learn from the mistakes of other nations. Before the internet becomes as widespread there as it is elsewhere, they can put safety policies and set standards in place prior to mass explosion of internet usage and ownership. The question is will they learn?