Friday, October 31, 2008

Review of existing Australian and international cyber-safety research

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has issued a Request for Tender for a Review of existing Australian and international cyber-safety research. The work is expected to cost $50,000 to $100,000. There is a 61 page document describing the project to potential tenderers:

The internet is an essential part of the Australian economy and a powerful resource for communication, interaction, entertainment and learning. While there are many ways in which Australian children benefit from computers and the internet, there is also risk associated with their use. This is particularly the case given the internet’s global reach, and that in some jurisdictions the internet is unregulated or laws are not enforced.

Cyber-safety is about keeping children safe online. Potential dangers for children using the internet include:

  • exposure to pornographic, illegal and other inappropriate material
  • cyber-bullying and harassment
  • exposure to promotion of inappropriate social and health behaviours
  • cyber-stalking and sexual grooming
  • identity fraud
  • violation of privacy
  • spam and computer viruses

Such dangers can lead to both short and long-term effects such as physical harm, anti-social behaviour, depression and have a financial impact.

In the 2008-09 Budget, the Australian Government committed $125.8 million over the next four years to a comprehensive range of cyber-safety measures, including law enforcement, education, international co operation, research and filtering.

The Department, in collaboration with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and other government agencies, is tasked with implementing the Government’s comprehensive cyber safety plan. The Consultative Working Group on cyber-safety has been established to consider issues of cyber-safety to guide future policy. Outreach activities, including practical guides for parents and teachers to increase awareness and education, and improved web sites to provide cyber-safety information, will be implemented by the ACMA.

The Consultative Working Group was established to advise the Government on cyber-safety issues in order to ensure properly developed and targeted policy initiatives. The services procured in this RFT are intended to inform the work of the Consultative Working Group and the Government's cyber-safety policies and programs. Ongoing research into the changing digital environment will assist in identifying issues and target future policy and funding.

The Service provider must provide the Department with a report based on the professional investigation, identification and analysis of existing authoritative Australian and international research on cyber safety. The report must identify:

58.1.1 the nature, prevalence and implications of cyber safety risks to Australian children. This should include:

a. findings from existing Australian and international empirical research, surveys and literature reviews; and

b. presentation of findings by key age cohorts (eg preschool, junior school, high school and college);

58.1.2 what is known about quantification of the risks and their consequences. These risks, without limitation, must include:

  • abuse of children online (cyber-stalking and sexual grooming);
  • cyber-bullying;
  • exposure to illegal and inappropriate content;
  • promotion of inappropriate social and health behaviours (technology addiction, anorexia, drug usage, underage drinking and smoking);
  • breaches of privacy, identify theft and online security; and
  • “drifting” behaviour (viewing of inappropriate images leading to unhealthy curiosity about and tolerance for images of greater concern, e.g. child abuse);
      1. technical and behavioural measures deployed by children, teachers, parents and others to mitigate cyber safety risks;

      2. the effectiveness of current technical and behavioural measures as perceived by children, parents, teachers and others;

58.1.5 additional measures that children, parents, teachers, the community, industry might take to reduce cyber-safety risk and the potential effectiveness of these;

58.1.6 external factors which may contribute to the type and level of risk that a child encounters online;

58.1.7 any gaps in research, and in particular gaps in Australian data, relevant to the delivery of 58.1.1 through 58.1.6; and

58.1.8 options for maintaining the currency of information collected and considered in the delivery of 58.1.1 through 58.1.6.

The report must be presented in line with the Commonwealth style guide. All report findings and statistics contained in the report must be properly referenced.

The report would be considered fit for purpose where its findings are demonstrably authoritative, can be relied on by the Government to effectively inform its policies and programs, effectively reflects comments and amendments requested by the Department in response to the progress reports and the draft report and accords with the terms and conditions of the Agreement for the delivery of the Service.

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