Address by Governor at the Digital launch of the UNICEF State of the World’s Children Report 2017 at Raj Bhavan, Mumbai
Address by Shri CH Vidyasagar Rao, Governor of Maharashtra at the Digital launch of the UNICEF State of the World’s Children Report 2017 at Raj Bhavan, Mumbai at 1130 hrs on Wednesday, 13th December 2017
Smt Rajeshwari Chandrashekhar, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF, senior officers and staff of UNICEF, representatives of other organisations, distinguished invitees, and dear children,
I am pleased to associate myself with the Digital launch of the UNICEF State of the World’s Children Report 2017. The report has been launched globally a day before yesterday and I am glad that we are releasing it today.
The UNICEF State of the World’s Children report provides us an opportunity to take stock of the state of our own children and to take corrective measures wherever necessary.
As has been mentioned, the theme of this year’s UNICEF State of the World’s Children Report is “Children in a Digital World”.
I understand that the Report examines the ways in which digital technology has already changed children’s lives and life chances. Digital technology has brought with it immense possibilities.
Indeed, Digital technology can be a game changer if we could harness it properly to achieve the goals of universal literacy, improve the quality of education, provide better healthcare and alleviate poverty.
However, despite having large scale internet penetration in India, the digital divide is noticeable and perceptible.
What concerns me more than anything else is the safety and security of the child in the digital era.
Child exploitation and trafficking is now taking the digital route. Quite often we find that anti social elements are the first to misuse technology for their nefarious goals. Children, especially those from the poor families, slums children, street children, the differently-abled children, etc are at a higher risk of trafficking and exploitation.
We need institutional mechanism to ensure the safety of children in schools, tribal Ashram Shalas, orphanages, remand homes, reformatories and the home for the disabled children. Parents and teachers will have to remain more vigilant to ensure safety of children in the digital era.
The kind of digital content that is flowing freely on the social media is indeed worrying. As Governor, and more than that, as a grandfather, I feel concerned how to protect children from harmful digital content.
I do feel that experts in the field must put their heads together to see that children access only good quality, positive, child-friendly, child-safe content. We must organise expert talks in schools about safety in the digital era. The threats to a child’s safety online and offline must never be taken lightly. We need policy framework to ensure the safety of children in the digital era.
The State of the World’s Children Report can be a starting point for creating an action plan to create a caring, inclusive, and I would say, digitally inclusive society for the children.
I will appeal to the UNICEF Field office to work closely with Government of Maharashtra to connect every child with the digital medium.
I am confident that the Government will take note of the UNICEF Report, as the Digital India programme of the government is aiming to transform India into a digitally empowered society.
Commitment to children is a social responsibility that needs to go beyond the government. The private sector – especially the technology and telecommunication industries – has a special responsibility and a unique ability to shape the impact of digital technology on children.
The media must do its bit to educate the people with more stories about the potential impact of connectivity on children’s healthy development and well-being.
As the Report says, it is only through collective action – by governments, the private sector, civil society organisations, academia, families and children themselves – that we can make the digital space more accessible and safer for children. I take great pleasure in releasing the UNICEF State of the World’s Children 2017 in Maharashtra.