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Internet café urged to monitor sites

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Serious consequences should be meted out to Internet café operators that allow school children to have access to pornographic material at their business establishments.{{more}}

This is according to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Telecommunications, Shirla Francis, who spoke to SEARCHLIGHT at the recently concluded Internet Fiesta, held at the Aquatic Club. The Fiesta is part of the public awareness component of the seven-component, $18 million, Information & Communication Technology Development Programme, Special Framework of Assistance 2005 (SFA) project, specifically designed to assist in the diversification around bananas.

The project, which is funded by the European Union, and is being coordinated locally by Charmane Tappin-John, has also been implemented in Grenada and Dominica.

The project involves the development of ICT business skills, public sector upgrading, E readiness and leadership, along with public awareness.

Francis, who said that the E-transaction legislation framework that is being reviewed should encompass all aspects of E- Business, said that it is important that efforts are made by Internet café operators to protect children from themselves, the lure of their own curiosity.

She encouraged operators to install the necessary software to block the download of pornography, and said that while no official complaint about that subject has been made to her Ministry, word “on the ground’ suggests that it is a matter that needs to be addressed, and serious consequences be in place to deal with operators, who allow such.

As part of the launch of the SFA project, a secondary school essay competition was held, and the eventual winner, 14-year-old form four student of the Girls’ High School, Brittney Shortte, also addressed access to websites not suitable for children as one of the drawbacks to the availability of the Internet to children.

“The possibility of exposure to information and websites not intended for children exists since there is not always a supervised regulatory mechanism pertaining to what is allowed onto the Internet,” she said.

Shortte, who copped the top prize from 11 other entries, was the proud winner of a laptop computer donated by COURTS St Vincent limited, and received her prize last Friday, May 20th, at the closing of the fiesta.

At the fiesta’s opening, a week earlier, president of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Jerry George challenged young entrepreneurs to give attention to the Internet’s economic benefits and not just be content with using it for its basic services, and entertainment.

George, in his address, stressed that Vincentians must see themselves as being able to capitalize on the $108 billion being spent on-line, and not just be part of the spending crowd.

“There are huge opportunities for the creation of content but our people seem to only settle to be consumers,” George said.

“The dogma of an earlier age held that ordinary people had no need to upload, they were consumers, not producers. We have to change that thinking. We have to take our share of the wealth being created by the internet. It wouldn’t happen by being downloaders,” George stressed.

The fiesta saw booths set up by various entities that have E- components, and visitors to the fiesta throughout the week were also treated to various presentations by private and government entities on various E-services being offered here along with various important information to be gleaned and warnings heeded as ICTs develop.

Coordinator of the fiesta, Sehon Marshall, told SEARCHLIGHT that there is still a dearth in knowledge in St Vincent and the Grenadines on the full capabilities, the vast opportunities that the Internet presents.

“A lot of businesses have not embraced the Internet as they should,” Marshall said.

He was reasonably satisfied with the attendance at the various sessions, but said it could have been better.

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