Ending Misinformation through Digital Literacy

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Ending Misinformation through Digital Literacy
Joanne B. Agbisit
Associate Editor, The ASEAN | ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Department
Ixora Tri Devi
Staff Writer, The ASEAN | ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Department

Gathering over 70 participants from across ASEAN, the ASEAN Foundation hosted the ASEAN Digital Literacy Programme Impact Forum in Bali, Indonesia, on 14-16 November 2023. The participants consisted of partner organisations, master trainers, mentors, youth advisors from all 10 Member States. Resource persons from the private sector, ASEAN’s Committee of Permanent Representatives, and the ASEAN Secretariat also joined the forum.

achievements of the ASEAN Digital Literacy Programme, a vital initiative designed to help people in ASEAN evaluate information more critically and counter disinformation and misinformation.

Launched in 2021, with support from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, the programme is tailored to different underserved communities—parents, teachers, youth, older adults, and local communities—to make everyone feel confident and secure online. Its components include the development of a digital literacy training module, capacity building on digital literacy, an awareness-raising campaign, e-learning platform development, and an in-depth study on digital literacy.

“We started doing the training-of-trainer workshops in the middle of 2022 after COVID-19; then, these master trainers went to the communities to talk, teach, and empower,” reported ASEAN Foundation Executive Director Dr. Piti Srisangnam at the forum.

Dr. Piti said the programme has provided training to almost 200,000 individuals in the region, doubling the initial target. The beneficiaries included people with disabilities, non-binary individuals, and other vulnerable sectors—a testament to the ASEAN Foundation’s commitment to inclusivity, according to Dr. Piti.

Recognising the importance of youth engagement, an advisory board composed of youth representatives from all Member States was formed to lead the information campaign on digital literacy. “The ASEAN youth advisory group has conducted 12 impactful online and onsite digital literacy campaigns across 10 ASEAN countries,” Dr. Piti said.

A pivotal moment in the forum was the launch of the e-learning platform Digital Class ASEAN (digitalclassASEAN.org), “a one-stop hub for ASEAN people to participate in immersive digital literacy courses.” The courses encompass responsible digital citizenship, media literacy, disinformation/misinformation, and positive information—all available in 10 ASEAN languages.

In addition, the forum previewed the initial results of the ongoing region-wide study on dis/misinformation led by Dr. Endah Triastuti of the Department of Communication, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Universitas Indonesia. The study will conclude in the first quarter of 2024.

The interactive panel and breakout sessions added depth to the discussion, providing participants with a platform to exchange insights on their experiences in implementing the programme. This included candid discussions on the challenges encountered and valuable recommendations for potential programme extension.

Ensuring that ASEAN citizens are digitally literate and empowered is part of ASEAN’s digital transformation strategies. This was emphasised by Director Le Quang Lan of the ASEAN Secretariat, who delivered an opening message on behalf of ASEAN Secretary- General Dr. Kao Kim Hourn.

“The region is now the third largest digital economy in the world. We now have more than 460 million active internet users, 80 per cent of them digital consumers,” he noted. “That is why an initiative like the ASEAN Digital Literacy Programme is crucial in promoting greater literacy in the region and increasing awareness of online safety.”

Marija Ralic, lead for Google.org Asia Pacific, expressed her pride in supporting ASEAN Digital Literacy Programme: “We are proud to support the ASEAN Foundation in empowering people across the region with crucial media literacy and online safety skills. Google.org’s dedication to fostering digital safety aligns perfectly with the ASEAN Foundation’s mission to empower ASEAN communities through digital literacy which will contribute to digitally resilient ASEAN.” Google.org supported the ASEAN Foundation with a grant of 1.5 million US dollars to implement the programme from 2022 to 2024.