The Fund Grants, Empower Innovative Solutions Across 15 Countries
In a significant move to enhance online safety in Africa, the Africa Online Safety Fund (AOSF) has announced the winners of this year’s grants, highlighting innovative solutions to address the complex challenges that the internet presents. The AOSF, supported by Google.org, is committed to fostering online safety and has selected 22 organizations from seven countries to receive grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. These grants aim to support projects that combat cyber threats, misinformation, and disinformation while promoting safe internet usage.
With over 500 million people in Africa having access to the internet, representing nearly 40% of the continent’s population, online safety has become a critical concern. The AOSF plays a pivotal role in providing funding and support to organizations dedicated to creating a safer online environment.
The 2023 AOSF grant recipients span across 15 African countries, reflecting a collective effort to address internet safety issues on a continental scale. The winning organizations have proposed a diverse range of innovative solutions to tackle these challenges, demonstrating the depth and breadth of their commitment to online safety.
The selection process was highly competitive, with over 350 applications received for the 2023 cohort. A shortlist of 40 entries was considered before the final selection of the 22 winning organizations. The winners include a mix of transformative, maturing, and catalytic projects, each with a specific focus on addressing online safety issues in Africa.
Transformative projects, with a maximum grant of $50,000, are designed to have a broader reach, potentially impacting multiple geographies and a large number of beneficiaries. They are also intended to be scalable solutions. The maturing projects, with grants of up to $25,000, aim to test new ideas on a larger scale, reach new audiences, and enhance existing projects. The catalytic projects, with grants of $10,000, are more focused, targeting specific, often local, or culturally specific issues.
Nigeria leads the way in the number of winning organizations, with six recipients, including Access Drive Capacity Development Foundation, Epower, Lagos Mums Foundation, TechSocietal, Teens Can Code, and Zikoko Citizen. South Africa follows closely behind with five winning organizations: Centre for Analytics and Behavioral Change, City Of Johannesburg Library And Information Services, Global Leading Light Initiatives, Media Monitoring Africa, and Wolfpack Information Risk (Pty) Ltd.
Ghana and Kenya each boast four winning ventures, showcasing the commitment of local organizations to address online safety. In Ghana, the winning organizations are the Ghana Internet Safety Foundation, Iwatch Africa, My Power App, and Penplusbytes. In Kenya, the organizations include Boltech Consultancy, Terre Des Hommes Netherlands, Watoto Watch Network, and Wezesha Innovation Foundation.
Additionally, Cameroon, Somalia, and Zimbabwe each have one winning organization: Internet Society in Cameroon, Somali Women Journalists’ Rights Association (Sowjra) in Somalia, and Safety N Us Trust in Zimbabwe. These diverse winners emphasize the collaborative effort across the continent to create a safer online space.
Impact Amplifier, the South African social impact advisory firm, has played a crucial role in managing and facilitating the AOSF. The second phase of the Africa Online Safety Fund, supported by Google.org’s funding, has successfully selected these organizations as beneficiaries. The initial phase of the fund supported 26 social innovators in nine African countries, focusing on unique approaches to online safety.
Tanner Methvin, Director of Impact Amplifier, explained, “With over 500 million people having access to the internet in Africa, reflecting just under 40 per cent of the continent’s population, online safety issues are of critical concern.” He emphasized the importance of innovative approaches to tackle these challenges, and the winning solutions cover a wide spectrum of online safety issues.
These solutions are diverse, ranging from combatting misinformation and disinformation to establishing investigative teams to track cybercriminals. They also support journalists who are targeted with hate speech and bullying and integrate online safety training into school curriculums. The winning projects illustrate the breadth of strategies being employed to enhance online safety in Africa.
In addition to announcing the grant recipients, Impact Amplifier is working with Google.org to develop an Africa-focused online safety research, education, and support platform. Recognizing the need for a holistic approach to combat online safety challenges, this platform will centralize key tools and knowledge required for support.
The platform will aggregate research related to online safety in Africa, making this vital knowledge available to policymakers, civil society, academics, businesses, and the general public. It will also provide educational materials to teach children and adults how to protect themselves online, including curriculum, testing materials, evaluation tools, and general awareness content.
One critical aspect of the platform is to centralize support mechanisms for individuals who have been victims of online crimes or violations. This feature will ensure that victims can navigate the process of seeking help effectively, irrespective of their location in Africa.
The new platform is expected to be launched in February 2024 and will significantly contribute to building a safer online environment for Africans. By offering a comprehensive range of resources, it will empower individuals and organizations to combat online safety challenges effectively.
The Africa Online Safety Fund’s continued commitment to fostering online safety and the development of this comprehensive platform demonstrates the dedication of organizations, funders, and stakeholders in Africa to create a safer online space for everyone.
About the Kenyan Winners:
- Boltech Consultancy: Boltech Consultancy, dedicated to designing personalized security solutions, places a strong focus on protecting individuals and organizations that champion justice from digital threats. The organization’s mission also involves providing technical support and training to address cybersecurity challenges. Boltech Consultancy’s forthcoming endeavor aims to provide specialized training for Social Justice Organizations (SJOs) and human rights defenders (HRDs). This training will equip them with the knowledge to operate securely, protect sensitive information, and effectively combat cyber threats.
- Terre des Hommes Netherlands Foundation: In partnership with Childline Kenya, Terre des Hommes Netherlands Foundation is committed to safeguarding children from various forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation, child labor, and trafficking. Their approach emphasizes putting children at the center of their efforts, collecting data and evidence, co-creating solutions with children, and building partnerships to catalyze change in East Africa and Southern Asia. Their specific focus in this endeavor is to combat the online sexual exploitation of children through a multi-tiered approach that includes education, support, legislative measures, and enforcement.
- Watoto Watch Network (WWN): Watoto Watch Network, a child-focused non-profit organization, is actively raising awareness about Child Online Protection. Their Safe Together initiative seeks to provide online safety awareness training to deaf children and teachers, in collaboration with Deaf Kidz International. They plan to utilize an interactive and accessible digital platform called “DeafKidz Defenders,” which includes a free learning resource for continuous learning in schools and training for sign language facilitators.
- Wezesha Innovation Foundation: Wezesha Innovation Foundation empowers youth, teachers, students, families, and particularly young women with digital skills, access to information, and job opportunities. Their focus is on enhancing problem-solving skills and ensuring a safe online experience for all in Kenya and other parts of Africa. Their Safer Internet For All project aims to tackle Kenya’s internet safety issues by establishing the first-ever interactive and comprehensive online safety toolkit in Kenya, which will be accessible to all free of charge.
In its second call for applications, IA attracted applicants from a wide range of backgrounds, ranging from child-rights organizations and technology firms to digital security solutions providers. The common thread in all the winning entries was their innovative programs for dealing with online safety.
As countries, businesses, and individuals become more dependent on digital technology, they also become more vulnerable to cyber threats. These threats grow in parallel with the adoption of the internet and digital services, leading to safety concerns such as terrorist recruitment, sex trafficking, identity theft, financial scams, and cyberbullying. The African continent is particularly susceptible to internet-related vulnerabilities, threats, and attacks. Impact Amplifier, with Google.org’s support, created the AOSF to craft a holistic approach to the problem of online safety in Africa.
About Impact Amplifier:
Founded in 2011, Impact Amplifier (IA) is a social impact-focused accelerator and capital advisory business with its headquarters in Cape Town, South Africa. It also has offices in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Lagos, Nigeria. IA blends research, business development services, and funding to scale commercially viable social enterprises in Africa.
IA addresses Africa’s socioeconomic and environmental challenges by providing acceleration, investment readiness, capital raising, and bespoke business development services to post-revenue high-impact businesses. They assist impact investors in building quality business portfolios that can thrive commercially while making a meaningful contribution to local and global social challenges. IA supports larger companies in enhancing and measuring their social and/or environmental impact and conducts research projects to bridge knowledge gaps in the impact investment ecosystem.
Typically, IA conducts two to three multinational ecosystem/impact assessment research projects per year, trains up to 60 social enterprises, accelerates 30 over a longer period, and actively works on eight to ten grant/investment deals per annum. They support a blend of catalytic grants, debt, and equity from various grantors and investors. Currently, IA is working across 23 African countries.
IA’s team comprises highly skilled professionals with complementary backgrounds and expertise, including fund management, management consulting, research, technology, and a deep understanding of social and environmental issues. IA operates virtually and on-site, working adaptively and flexibly with ecosystem actors across the African continent, as well as in the United States and Europe.
The dedicated efforts of Impact Amplifier and its partners reflect a collective determination to create a safer online environment for all, empowering individuals and organizations to effectively combat online safety challenges and fostering a culture of responsible internet usage in Africa.