Dubai: As the world metamorphsed with the COVID-19 pandemic, transitioning to digital and virtual transaction in every field, UAE’s Ministry of Community Development (CDA) unveiled the blue print for a national digital wellbeing policy on Monday.
Establishing the need for the Digital Wellbeing Policy, Hessa bint Essa BuHumaid, Minister of CDA and Vice-Chairman of the Digital Wellbeing Council, said the policy guidelines were set up taking into account the proliferation of the digital world in every aspect of UAE life. These include fields of distance learning and education, digital research and curriculum, new digital career requirements such as remote working banking and financial transactions, gaming, communication, audio-visual sharing, government service platforms, social media interactions, online shopping and other youth activities.
76 per cent of UAE residents think digital wellbeing is at risk
She pointed out that studies conducted on UAE consumers indicated that nearly 76 per cent of the population felt that their digital wellbeing was at risk. Approximately 67 per cent watched at least one video on social media every day. Nearly 72 per cent preferred digital transactions. About 87 per cent of UAE’s parents acknowledged the risk of letting their children surf the internet unsupervised, while 66 per cent said they did not have the authority to surf the internet on their children’s devices. Nearly 34 per cent parents let their children browse the digital world unsupervised. BuHamid said. “The policy looks at making some incisive recommendations to make the new digital world inclusive, ethical and sustainable for all members of the community. It has come into being reflecting the concept of a post COVID-19 world and is tandem with the National Well Being Strategy 2031,” BuHamid added.
Speaking to Gulf News, Amal Al Beloushi, programme manager at the Digital Wellbeing Council said: “We want to build a safe, secure, inclusive, sustainable and positive digital community that will coincide with the UAE centennial vision 2071. It will help prepare the society with needed skills, knowledge and behaviours that respond to rapid changes.”
National Wellbeing Survey 2020
BuHamid quoted the results of the National Wellbeing Survey 2020, which was completed by the Ministry through the National Happiness and Wellbeing Programme which showed that 56 per cent of children use digital devices to watch videos, 50 per used these to play electronic game. The survey also found that parents use various methods to manage their children’s use of electronic devices, with 45 per cent parents talk to their children about the negative effects of excessive use of digital devices, and 33 per cent check the content of devices such as visited sites, downloaded apps and messages.
Four pillars of the Digital Well Being Policy:
• Capacity: Building the capacity of the community users such as students, employees and senior citizens.
• Consolidation of digital behaviour: Creating an ethos of positive digital behaviour and values on social media platforms.
• Communication: Establishing legislations that would accommodate the changes of the digital world and protect the residents from potential risks.
• Content: Guiding the community to use the digital world and content positively to reduce exposure to harmful or hateful content through legislation.
How the policy will be implemented?
To facilitate implementation, a charter of positive digital citizenship values and behaviours has been drawn up with at least ten stakeholders in the community who are part of the National Well Being Council. The stake holders include several UAE ministries such as CDA, interiors, education, economy, justice and so on, other bodies such as the Telecommunications and Regulatory Authority (TRA), the National Artificial Intelligence Programme, parents, representative as well as the Federal Youth Foundation and representatives from Smart Dubai among others. The aim of the guidelines is to encourage the community to develop a healthy relationship with technology and the digital world and be aware of the potential risks and methods of safeguarding the interests of the users.
The ministry intends to use integrated training programmes to implement these recommendations.
Example of integrating best practices of digital wellbeing
A good example of how self restrain and monitoring will work is demonstrated through the TRA’s Sannif Plaftorm. This platform (www.sannif.ae) provides parents an opportunity to find out fundamental facts about the games their children might be playing such as whether it is age appropriate, the content of the game, potential risks and assists parents in having a say in choosing electronic games suited to their children.
The ministry is also working towards integrating Digital Wellbeing into the education curriculum from kindergarten to make provide a holistic and responsible awareness among students from a young age.