COVA Annual Report 2016-17: Part 1 International- Seven Country Launch of COFI (Countering Online Fanatic Indoctrination) Networks
We are happy to share with you the First Installment of our Annual Report for the Period 1st April 2016 to 31st March 2017.
Thanks to your wholehearted support, encouragement and collaboration, COVA was able to continue its operations from the slums of Hyderabad to state, national and international domains including constructive engagements with Multilateral Bodies like the United Nations and BRICS etc.
During the year our activities covered empowering citizens of the city of Hyderabad to seek participation in local governance processes and access civic amenities through the Municipal Corporation and the Water Board; sensitisation of school students for Compassionate Citizenship and Responsible Activism and advocacy action on securing 25% free admissions to poor students in private schools that could benefit over 2 lakh (200,000) children from poor and marginalised families; facilitating small entrepreneurs to access loans from banks as part of financial inclusion program; collaborations with city, state and national organisations and networks to promote communal harmony and governance accountability; support over 4500 refugees from 12 countries living in Hyderabad as Partners of UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees); contribution to the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) Process being spearheaded by UN; Study on MSMEs in BRICS Economies with recommendations for Three Paradigm Shifts and Twelve Strategic Action Points to generate employment and finally launch of COFI (Countering Online Fanatic Indoctrination) Networks involving four countries of South Asia and three countries of Far East to address the challenges of online hate campaigns leading to violent extremism.
We propose to share the Annual Report of COVA for 2016-17 in 7 Parts (1 to 2 pages each) covering International, National, State and City activities undertaken during the year. Each Part will be mailed on alternate days starting from 1st April 2017.
Part I: COFI Networks
The COFI (Countering Online Fanatic Indoctrination) Networks Program aims to reach out to persons from fields of religion, media, civil society and social media who are concerned by the growing phenomenon of misuse of social media spaces for spread of hate campaigns leading to fanatic indoctrination- especially of youth. These persons, who are well versed in religious and social issues but are unable to respond to this growing menace of online indoctrination (due to their technical limitations in using social media), will be enlisted as Partners and provided technical skills and ability in handling a range of social media platforms and tools.
The COFI Program is being initiated in nine countries of South Asia and Far East viz. Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka. It is hoped to extent the program to other countries and other continents subsequently.
Under the theme of “Countering Online Radicalisation in Digital Age”, COFI Networks program was launched through a TechCamp jointly organised by COVA and US Consulate in Hyderabad from 27 to 29th November 2016 with participation of 33 international Partners from seven countries and 16 Partners from 6 cities of India. Five foreign Resource Persons from 4 Countries and 6 Indian Resource Persons trained the Partners in use of social media and development of apps and tools to address problems encountered in their professional engagements from online hate campaigns and spread of fake news and misinformation.
COFI Program uses Format of DLIT (Digital Literacy and Intervention Techniques) that trains Partners in gaining competence in using social media to counter hate campaigns and indoctrination and propagate understanding and peaceful coexistence through training programs ranging from half a day to five days. The Fortnightly COFI Newsletter to be launched from May 2017 will help Partners to broadcast their articles, videos and podcasts to One Hundred Thousand contacts and many more through onward sharing on various social media platforms like Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, emails etc.
DLIT Training Programs (through TechCamps) are being organised in Mumbai, Banguluru, Delhi and Dhaka between May and July 2017 and will be offered in 10 other cities of the nine countries involved in the initiative by end 2017 to enlist 500 Partners to counter online hate and spread ideologies of mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence.
The Report of TechCamp Hyderabad that laid the foundation and launched COFI Networks is appended below and also attached.
Would you like to become a Partner of COFI and contribute to World Peace?
Please Click HERE to know more about COFI Program and Membership.
TechCamp Hyderabad Report
Introduction and Background:
Youth are at increasing risk for being exploited by recruiters for fanatic and extremist organizations through online and digital indoctrination. Even otherwise, the online media is being increasingly used to spread misinformation to affect disaffection between different communities across the world- especially in the Asian countries. There are many persons from youth, civil society, journalism, religious groups and computer professional etc. who are concerned by this growing phenomenon of misuse of social media spaces for fanatic indoctrination but are unable to respond appropriately due to their technical limitations in using social media and absence of a platform for action.
TechCamp Hyderabad was designed as a Three-Day, interactive and fun experience to bring together civil society organizations, religious leaders, social media experts, and journalists from seven countries (representatives from nine countries were invited, but all could not come) with leading international/local technology experts to co-create social media solutions & strategies to the most pressing challenges faced by the participants in their work.
Countries represented at the TechCamp were Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Maldives , Philippines, Singapore & Sri Lanka will be represented at TechCamp Hyderabad to determine the biggest challenges that need to be addressed in the area of online radicalization and recruitment.
In all 33 foreign participants from seven countries and 16 participants from 6 cities of India attended the program. 5 foreign Resource Persons from 4 countries and 6 Indian Resource Persons conducted the program with great expertise.
An open discussion took place with the three member panel of Venkat, Ayeshea and Mazher Hussain for 40 minutes followed by discussion.
Ayeshea commented that when one posts a message, opponents who don’t like or disagree with it label the commenter as biased and often retort in abusive language including threats of rape or killing with the objective of demoralizing the writer and cause acute mental agony to discourage from further writing and engagement with social media.
Mazher explained in detail how trolling has come of age with full time professionals employed to bombard target persons on social media with negative and abusive content using multiple identities. One person can create and post messages from 50 different identities and even if 10 such persons are engaged in trolling, the receiver would think over 500 different people are attacking him and could easily get demoralized.
The objective of trolling is to intimidate and force into silence anyone with whom you differ and the only solution is to realize the hollowness and ill intentions behind trolls, develop a thick skin and continue with our posts and writings to propagate correct perspectives and counter negative ideologies.
Venkey explained in detail the options available to victims of trolling. First is to initiate action against trolls by requesting owners of Social Media platforms where the abuse is taking place. Second is to lodge a complaint with the police and in most countries appropriate and effective action is being taken though there are still some issues of anonymity and off shore operations. And finally, he also reiterated that the best bet is to just ignore and develop a thick skin.
The floor was open for discussion and a lively and informative discussion followed for over 30 minutes where the participants shared their experiences and proposed creative solutions.
Feedback from Participants and Trainers: Glimpses
Note: Survey Monkey does not reveal names
• Absolutely loved the TechCamp. COVA has done a great job organizing it. Since we organize camps and workshops, I have already gotten many pointers. It would have been great if we got the chance to choose more than just 2 training sessions. 11/29/2016 6:26 PM
• I cannot ask for more as the trainers, organizers were awesome in arranging the event and the event changed my perspective towards tech and humanity. 11/29/2016 5:21 PM
• Thank you for a wonderful event. It was the first event in which I saw effective products being developed by the end of the program instead of just coming up with ideas. 11/29/2016 5:19 PM
• I loved the overall concept and the approach. Learned so many things which I can implement back home. I can confidently say that I have become so techsavy after attending this tech camp. Probably the best camp/conference that I have attended so far. Thank you COVA and other organizers for this amazing opportunity. 11/29/2016 5:06 PM
• Everything was greatly organised. Trainers were experts of their areas. 11/29/2016 5:05 PM
• The TechCamp provides me an opportunity of extending my network beyond South East Asia. Aside from that, I gained additional knowledge in terms of different tools that can be used in my work back home. Thank you for this opportunity. 11/29/2016 5:04 PM
• I love the hospitality. That makes me think good things of India! 11/29/2016 5:02 PM
• I suggest that you may create zones in various cities and thereby assigning mentors to us so that we can take this forward to a great extent 11/29/2016 5:01 PM
• More information prior to topic would be of help. It would also be helpful if we can have more time with a certain trainers. 11/29/2016 5:00 PM
• The whole TechCamp HYD is great! I would love to see this fantastic initiative create greater ripples of change and betterment in more countries across the globe. 11/29/2016 5:00 PM
Feed Back from Trainers
• Great effort, folks!! Can't adequately appreciate the amount of energy all of you put into making these TechCamps a huge success!!! 11/29/2016 5:09 PM
• The logistics and support for this conference were amongst the best I have experienced. Incredibly well done! Thank you for making it easy and fun! 11/29/2016 5:05 PM
• It was a good event and refreshing one to work with people from different countries. Having done 35+ events in India, this format is brand new and very interesting. Cheers to both IIP and COVA teams for organizing it and making it hassle free for me. 11/29/2016 5:00 PM
Feedback: On Facebook and Emails
• Thank you very much for the wonderful event, which is the need of the hour. We're back home safe and already much exited to carry the momentum/ knowledge we've got at the conference. Nuzaik Huzny Najimudeen, Participant, Sri Lanka
• Amazing opportunity to participate in the TechCamp and meet so many awesome ppl. Time management was awesome! Probably one of the first/only trainings I've been for that has worked so well to time! Kudos! Pls consider the environment and DON'T have water bottles in future! There was so much wastage and so MANY plastic bottles :( It was terribly sad to see). Marisa De Silva, Participant, Sri Lanka
•Miss my COFI family, Farhana Sharmin Ali, Participant, Bangladesh