July marked the 1st year's anniversary since the launch of the Friendly WiFi Scheme the world's first accreditation scheme to verify whether a business' public Wi-Fi service meets a minimum level of filtering to block out access to pornographic and child sex abuse websites.
It is such an important initiative as the provision of Wi-Fi continues to grow across public spaces from cities to parks and across venues from stores to shopping centres to hotels. The protection of children and young people whilst using Wi-Fi is essential as is ensuring what adults can access which can be visible to other guests. As more and more brands offer Wi-Fi as a way of communicating with their customers and the promotion of goods and services it is a social responsibility to also communicate that their Wi-Fi service is safe and meets an industry standard as agreed with David Cameron in July 2013.
Tesco Group have been scheme members since the creation of the scheme and have proudly shown the symbol across all their brands and are continuing to support this initiative, Josh Hardie, Corporate Responsibility Director for Tesco said “Friendly Wi-Fi means parents can be safe in the knowledge unsuitable content isn't accessible through our wireless networks. We want to make sure children are properly safeguarded in our stores and we're proud to be one of the first organisations to sign up to the scheme."Starbucks also joined ready for the when the scheme launched in July '14 and rolled out a window sticker campaign in January '15 to show their commitment to the scheme and communication to their customers that their Wi-Fi is part of an industry standard, Simon Redfern, Communications Director commented “We're delighted to have supported the Friendly WiFi initiative from the outset. We have exciting WiFi upgrades taking place over the next few months and our customers will soon be able to enjoy a faster service with the reassurance they are in a friendly and safe environment both online and in store at Starbucks."
Government were the initiators behind the scheme and have provided continued support with direct support coming from Minister Ed Vaizey who was instrumental in the development.
With the recent appointment of Baroness Shields OBE into the newly created position of Minister for Internet Safety and Security, it further strengthens the Government's commitment to the important subject and the continued support of initiatives such as the Friendly WiFi Scheme, Baroness Shields stated “The Friendly WiFi scheme has been a great success and is another example of how the UK is leading the world when it comes to making the internet a safer place for young people. I am delighted that organisations like IKEA, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the Maudsley Centre and the City of York Council are joining the current members who are setting the bar for the responsible provision of public WiFi. Parents can take comfort in knowing that their children are protected from harmful content in these zones, and wherever they see the Friendly WiFi logo."
The anniversary of the Friendly WiFi Scheme is an important achievement and marks key developments of the scheme. Over the past 12 months the scheme has entered accreditation with over 50 Wi-Fi providers, taking them through a process to verify that they are able to provide Wi-Fi services to their business customers that meet the industry standards of the scheme. This is an important part of the journey to ensure all Wi-Fi services meet an industry recognised standard of minimum filtering which was the commitment made by the UK's largest Wi-Fi providers. City of York Council have been the first city to become proud members of the scheme. They have embraced the symbol which can be seen around the city on lamp posts and throughout on digital signage. Cllr Ian Gillies, Executive Member for Transport and Planning at City of York Council said: “CityConnect WiFi from Pinacl has proven popular with residents and tourists and we are delighted it has the Friendly WiFi accreditation. As a super-connected city we are constantly improving our digital infrastructure and are proud to be the first city in the UK to receive this accreditation. It is important that children can browse the internet safely and we are delighted to support this scheme and offer this service in York's city centre." This has encouraged engagement with other cities who are looking to become members.
Recent members of the scheme for the anniversary are IKEA, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and The Maudsley Centre, all are key additions and demonstrate the diversity of the scheme and the safe provision of Wi-Fi services. For IKEA, joining the scheme was a no brainer as they encourage and embrace children in their stores, Gerard Bos, Customer Relations Manager for IKEA UK and Ireland, added “At IKEA we are committed to giving a great experience for all of our customers. Applying to join the 'Friendly WiFi' scheme demonstrates our commitment to providing a family friendly environment and this includes our free in-store WiFi service. We are hoping to complete the process soon and will display the 'Friendly WiFi' symbol to inform all of our customers that we are part of the scheme."
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has been developed over the past few years to create a community and public park and to continue with the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. As a community focussed project, joining the Friendly WiFi Scheme was important as they now offer free Wi-Fi (supplied by WiFi SPARK who are an approved provider) throughout the Park and will be showing the Friendly WiFi symbol across the Park. Ben Edmonds, IT Programme and Change Manager for the London Legacy Development Corporation said: “We are dedicated to ensuring the best experience possible for our Park visitors and we also have very close bonds with our local community and educational groups, that is why we have joined the Friendly Wi-Fi scheme; it is very important to us to ensure that all the services we provide are safe, secure and inclusive, for all people of all ages."
With the recent addition of Maudsley Learning in London, this truly shows the diversity of the scheme. As a centre of learning for mental health and wellbeing, providing world class services, welcoming delegates from far and wide, being part of the Friendly WiFi Scheme was important to show their commitment to protecting their visitors whilst using their WiFi Services provided by WiFi SPARK, Vlada Penlington supported this by saying“Maudsley Learning is happy to be a part of the Friendly WiFi Scheme and provide online safety for our young guests. With the Friendly WiFi symbol displayed on the front door, all parents and teachers can be assured that their children are safe once connected online through our WiFi service. We hope that others will follow our example and then we can all together help protect our children from child abuse websites.
This all demonstrates the growth of the scheme with many more recognised brands currently going through the accreditation process.
The anniversary also marks the international expansion of the scheme. RDI has been working to bring the Friendly WiFi Scheme to the United States with internationally known Internet safety expert, Donna Rice Hughes, CEO and President of Enough Is Enough (EIE), a U.S. based not-for profit organisation whose mission is to make the Internet safer for children and families. EIE launched the National Porn Free WiFi campaign in the United States in 2014 by targeting key brands such as McDonald's and Starbucks to lead corporate America to adopt a minimum standard of filtering to ensure that pornography or child sex abuse images can't be accessed whilst using their free Wi-Fi services. Ms. Hughes, who plans to launch the Friendly WiFi Scheme in the US with key companies based in America under her business, DRH Enterprises, said, “Corporate America needs to exercise responsibility to be part of the solution to keep children and families safe while using public WiFi services. The Friendly WiFi accreditation scheme is a win-win for the Corporation who offers filtered and friendly WiFi and is well positioned to become the good housekeeping seal of approval to help guide consumers where to go to use safe Wi-Fi in the U.S."
Beverley Smith, Director of the RDI who launched the Friendly WiFi Scheme adds 'The first year of the scheme has been fantastic and it has been a real pleasure to work with all the brands involved as well as the brands I am currently discussing the scheme with. To see the expansion of the scheme across all types of venues is achieving exactly what the scheme was developed to do. We receive fantastic support from providers and to see two of WiFi SPARKS's customers come on board, thanks to their help, is brilliant. I am so proud to welcome the new brands and to see the scheme launch in the US. Donna and her team are enthusiastic and will be great ambassadors.' With a number of supporters across the industry, Beverley adds 'Since the beginning we have received great support from a number of charities and organisations who are focused on the protection of children and they have continued with their focus.' John Carr, Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety, mirrors Beverley's sentiment on the scheme and its growth saying "WiFi is a key pillar of our hyper-connected, always on world so it is essential that every company or organisation that is involved in supplying it to the public thinks about their responsibilities towards children and young people. Friendly WiFi is the only scheme that checks to ensure that Public WiFi meets a given standard, regardless of the individual WiFi provider. It is a testament to the success of the UK's Friendly WiFi scheme that it is now being launched in the USA. I look forward to seeing Friendly WiFi grow and expand over the coming years."
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