Need to bridge the digital divide, promote digital security awareness in the real estate sector

From left to right: President of the Uva Shakthi Foundation, Suresh Nadesan, receiving the trilingual reports of the study conducted by journalists and researchers Kalavarshny Kanagaratnam and Sara Pathirana


By Kalavarshny Kanagaratnam and

Sara Pathirana

It is imperative, especially in this digital age, that everyone makes an effort to understand what it means to be safe online. From the moment we click a button and post content and other information on the internet, it has already made its way to the global web where the whole world can witness and consume it. With the rise of the recent pandemic and the way it has ushered us all into a new normal where even more people around the world have begun to rely heavily on the internet and use it as a tool to do their jobs without needing to worry about the challenges that have come with the COVID-19 restrictions. At the same time, the importance of digital security and our online security has also been reinforced.

As more and more people embrace the internet as technology advances, individuals turn to online activities such as hacking into social networks and email accounts and stealing sensitive data from their owners. Data, people’s identities and personal images tend to be stolen and used to do other malicious activities. Many people around the world have already faced and suffered from such problems. Women in particular are increasingly vulnerable to online threats such as cyberbullying. Therefore, it is very important to be aware of the concept of digital security.

Digital security in the real estate sector

Digital security is a collective term that describes the resources used to protect one’s identity, data and other assets online. These tools include web services, anti-virus software, smartphone SIM cards, biometrics and secure personal devices. In other words, digital security is the process used to protect one’s online presence and identity. Due to a lack of digital security awareness, many cases of data theft and cyber violence are reported daily.

Considering the context of Sri Lanka, the western province in particular and other neighboring provinces would generally have a higher number of tech-savvy and alert internet users to some extent. Even then, the problems persist. But can the same be said of the masses of users who reside in the real estate sector, for example? While there are still signs of a digital divide in these regions, how are they doing in line with the resources they have?

Women are often the most vulnerable and often targeted segment on the internet. For example, a recent study by an Internews Sri Lanka project “Safe Sisters” focused on investigating the extent to which digital safety exists for women engaged in social activities and activism initiatives in the real estate sector in the province of Uva. A group of women activists based in Badulla district were selected for the study and the research mainly focused on the topic of digital security.

Surf the Internet

The research focused on a group of 10 women activists based in Badulla and the reason this region was selected for this study was primarily due to recognizing the lack of research being conducted in these regions with a particular focus. on the subject of digital security, which is, once again, sorely lacking for many Sri Lankan Internet users in general. However, if you consider the women activists who work tirelessly to become torchbearers for communities of vulnerable groups and communities in the real estate sectors in particular, then to conduct this type of study and give them a space to be heard and understanding their level of ability and any other shortcomings was just a step forward in this matter.

Most activists were quite dependent on platforms such as WhatsApp groups to share details and communicate with each other. Being a woman activist and raising her voice to the masses tends to attract negative criticism, especially when it exists within a patriarchal framework. In this case, the study found that their activism, which focused on issues relating to gender rights, domestic violence, child abuse, human rights, reconciliation, etc. had to be extra vigilant each time they continued their work.

If knowledge of these issues has increased somewhat in urban areas, knowledge of the meaning of new media and the Internet is still far from being acquired when it comes to people who live in the real estate sector. As such, this assessment identifies the need to teach Internet use, understand digital safety, use of social media, and secure communication. This study was initiated as part of the Safe Sisters Sri Lanka Digital Security Fellowship, which was conducted and funded by Internews Sri Lanka. Members of the public can find out more about this assessment by contacting Internews Sri Lanka.

Sylvia B. Polson