A recipe for disaster

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

With great power comes greater responsibility. The truth is that while we’ve all been excited and marveled at the power of the internet to transform lives, we seldom discuss the lack of awareness and education about how to use such a powerful tool. 

Without a sound understanding and grounding on how to handle such power, we know the ultimate end is abuse, misuse and failure. Which is precisely what has been happening in a number of cases on these shores with the abuse of the internet, social media.

But it’s not just the abuse and misuse by our people that we are concerned about. With the internet, we are opening a door to the outside world, accepting all that is good and nasty about what is happening wherever whenever. In doing that, we are leaving ourselves vulnerable and open to anything and everything – including the worst forms of behaviour and scams.

And again, one more warning from the Central Bank of Samoa about the need for members of the public to be on the look out for “organised criminals” using social media to steal people’s money is yet another reminder about the need to educate our people about how not to use these tools.

For the uninitiated, the warning from the Central Bank was issued last week.

“It has been brought to our attention that there are supposedly some people or well organized criminals that are using Facebook as a tool to get to your hard earned money,” the bank warned.  

“They come in the form of get rich quick schemes promising you huge amounts of returns if you invest your money with them.  

“The business models and the products that they promote may be different (and very complicated), but the concept is still the same:  invest your money with us, and we will give you a huge return!  

“This means, for example, if you invest $1,000 with them, you will get $10,000 in return within a few weeks.  Or, invest $10,000 with them, and you get $100,000 in return within a few weeks from investing.”

The Bank goes on to caution people against believing in such a scheme.

“Please be alert and vigilant of these scammers on the social network (like Facebook, twitter, snapchat, instagram and the like),” the Bank says.

More importantly, the Bank goes on to provide lessons to educate our people to be alert. The tips include:

• Social Networks may look harmless, but once you log in to your Facebook account for example, you better be careful of who you talk to on Facebook.

• Never trust anyone that you don’t know personally or face to face.  If you have never seen the person that you are talking with on Facebook before, then you shouldn’t trust these types of people.  You will not know who really is behind on that other side of the internet. 

• Some people seem really friendly and well informed on the internet, but that is most likely not who they really are. You would not invite criminals and scammers into your home, likewise, you wouldn’t want to talk with these types of people on the internet as everytime you speak with them on the internet, you are inviting them into your private life.

• And lastly, avoid being snared by easy money or get rich quick schemes. It would be prudent to ‘avoid’ talking with these types of people online or people you have never seen before face to face

We acknowledge with gratitude Governor Maiava Atalina Enari and her team at the Central Bank for these very important tips. Thank you. These tips should be shouted from the rooftop of the government building and blasted on billboards from Apia to Aleipata and Salelologa to Falealupo. 

Why? With the Government promoting internet as the next best thing for Samoa, it is the highest form of negligence and ignorance that they are not providing education about how such a tool can be used. 

And the blame falls squarely on the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (M.C.I.T.). They should be at the forefront of this, just as they are forever talking up the benefits of faster internet. Yes faster internet has its benefits but it’s a disaster in the making if our people are not prepared on how to use it. That is the downside of it all. 

We are not just talking about social media and mobile phones. We are talking about everything. You see, we’d like to think that M.C.I.T. should be doing its best to raise awareness of these issues for sake of the people. While the submarine cables are great (hoping that the Internet costs will reduce as they promise), the Ministry is not doing what they’re supposed to do in as far as preparing our people for what’s up ahead. 

When was the last time you heard or saw an outreach programme about cybercrime and teaching people how to maximise the benefits of the Tui Samoa Cable and all? 

Do the relevant authorities even know what this means? 

Have the Police been trained to deal with these internet issues? These are important questions and more.

Folks, there is a lot of work to be done and it involves the need to balance the bringing in of fast Internet and educating our people. 

We cannot expect our people to suddenly become experts in how to use the internet when they have never been taught. This is a recipe for disaster, which unfortunately is where we are heading. What do you think?

Have a safe Thursday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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