CYBESICURIABORDO! Online Safety for All with the Italy SmartBus
The Italy SmartBus project wrapped up in May 2023 after touring cities in five Italian regions and reaching 5,000+ people. This guest post by Rosy Russo, President of the Parole O_Stili Foundation, details the aims and outcomes of this key project.
Rosy Russo, President, Parole O_Stili Foundation
Launched in Europe in 2019, the SmartBus project is part of Huawei’s long-term digital inclusion and sustainability initiative TECH4ALL.
With the aim of providing hands-on training to children in online safety, the SmartBus project had visited more than 300 schools in 8 countries, including Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands, reaching more than 65,000 students, parents and teachers.
From the previous experience gained by Huawei in Europe, collaboration with Parole O_Stili took shape to create the all-Italian SmartBus tour. The Trieste-based NGO, which is committed to raising awareness against the use of hostile language both online and offline, immediately embraced the project and created a training course and WebApp for monitoring skills on cybersecurity and privacy issues.
The gap in digital safety awareness
According to a 2022 Ipsos-Changes Unipolar survey:
- 30% of Italians do not perceive the danger of cyber risks.
- 17% of citizens are unable to assess cyber risks and consequences.
- While more than 50% of Italians counter cyber risks by providing only essential data and by not sharing photos online, younger people have a very low perception of the risks relating to publishing their own images on social media.
Also in 2022, the Postal and Communications Police and Cyber Security Operations Centers recorded an increase in the number of individuals (people or websites) identified and referred for crimes relating to the tech-mediated abuse of minors:
- Online grooming was common among preteens (10-13 years old).
- While on the decrease, cyber bullying mainly affected the 14-17 age group.
The growing number of cybersecurity crimes and privacy violations, increased time that Gen Z spends online, and the population-wide lack of awareness on digital opportunities and risks requires a timely and collective response.
Training for a safer future
Designed by Parole O_Stili, the Italy SmartBus training program ran from February to May 2023. The course integrated digital materials, such as video, audio, images, and quizzes, complemented by games and interactive dynamics. These created a fun and engaging learning environment that included examples of everyday life, with activities that children can easily identify with.
The training prioritized the use of non-hostile communication modes.
The SmartBus was equipped with 25 tablets installed with an educational WebApp developed by Parole O_Stili just for this project, with the NGO’s experienced trainers providing guidance on the bus.
From 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., five 45-minute training sessions were organized in the SmartBus. The lessons targeted secondary school students, and in some cities, fifth graders from primary school or first-year high schoolers also took part.
From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., other age groups were also invited to complete a dedicated course on cybersecurity, privacy, and digital tools.
Who attended the training?
- 4,421 students mainly from high schools
- 250 teachers from 206 schools in 5 regions
- 556 adults
The results of all the digital activities carried out on board the bus made it possible to create a map of the digital competencies of Italian cities and regions, while fully respecting privacy Through this mapping of digital skills, it will be possible to identify the specific needs of each city and region in order to provide targeted and tailored interventions to promote the diffusion of a digital security culture. Best practices and the most effective solutions to educate and raise awareness of cybersecurity issues will thus be identified, enabling everyone to navigate safely and responsibly in the increasingly pervasive digital world.
Example of a typical session
Children discuss a practical cybersecurity case in the morning. When they go home, they must decide what information to include in their hypothetical bio on a social media channel, considering the implications for their online privacy and security. In the afternoon, an e-mail phishing attempt is simulated. Finally, during dinner, quizzes and tests on cybersecurity related terms and concepts are presented.
Trainees are thus are tested on different facets of cybersecurity and privacy, enabling them to acquire the skills useful for overcoming challenges they may encounter on a daily basis.
As part of the training, the 5,000 trainees – both children and adults – were quizzed on their knowledge of cybersecurity, online safety, and use of digital tools.
- Everyone passed but not with flying colors.
– While only 3.1% of participants answered all questions correctly, participants displayed a medium-high level of knowledge about digital tools, the Internet, and online risks.
– 50% of students do not set secure passwords or keep a secure password archive using special tools, with 47.6% of girls reporting that they use a simple note on their smartphone. However, 90% of students are highly familiar with cybersecurity and privacy terminology, showing a precise understanding of terms such as “ban”, “block”, and “report violations”.
– Students displayed less concern about malware or copyright issues, with 50.7% prepared to download pirated games. They were also less concerned about the potentially negative impact of the entertainment content they use every day.
– Students appear to be better informed than adults.
– In the adult age group, women displayed greater awareness of digital tools and cybersecurity than men. In the student age group, boys displayed greater awareness than girls.
Download the full report
Note on privacy
Data management for the project followed GDPR guidelines, including Cookie Banners with preference choice and management of explicit consent by adults to start a quiz with their email. About consent, data are saved according to General Data Protection Regulation guidelines. Students’ data, since the design of the user experience, have been anonymized by not requiring email, first or last name from the student.
Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.