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Black Rose Book Launch

Using Manga to Teach Digital Safety in Vietnam

Custom graphic novel sheds light on online dangers and human trafficking.

The SecDev Foundation is proud to launch Black Rose a new manga graphic novel raising awareness for digital safety and human trafficking dangers in Vietnam. Black Rose will be launched at a public event on Sunday 4 February 2018 featuring the book’s artists, Comicola, and a performance by Vietnamese rapper, Karik.

Black Rose is a graphic novel about a celebrity singer who runs afoul of a human trafficking network after her Facebook page is attacked by a mysterious hacker. She enlists a ‘white-hat’ hacker to help her fight back. The novel, while primarily a dramatic adventure story, contains a number of real-life learning points on online safety, including a series of digital literacy guidelines at the back of the book.

Vietnam is among the world’s hardest-hit countries by cyber crime. It ranked 101st of 195 countries in the International Telecommunications Union’s 2017 Global Security Index, a fall of 25 places from 2016. Vietnam government sources estimate that 72 percent of mobile devices are infected by viruses. Cybercrime has personal and social costs, such as lost data and accounts. Cyber criminals pose a serious threat in particular to youth.

For the past two years, The SecDev Foundation has been working with local partners to foster digital literacy skills among Vietnamese youth. SecDev has helped to support multiple campaigns to promote important digital safety techniques, like better passwords, how to recognize a phishing attack, and two-factor authentication.  Increasingly, SecDev and its partners are focusing on the social aspects of online risks. Vietnam Program Manager Michael Gray said: “We recently conducted an online survey of youth asking about their positive and negative experiences online. Of 453 youth respondents aged 13-17 years, 392 – a worryingly high 87 percent – said they had been approached by a stranger online.”

Black Rose highlights these risks in a way designed to attract younger readers. The graphic novel was produced by Hanoi artists’ network Comicola, who manage a popular crowd-funding website for manga art, and have published over 30 manga books since their founding in 2015. Comicola co-founder and managing director Nguyen Khanh Duong was interested in the project’s goal of combining a dramatic storyline with an educational message:

“This manga book is a very special product for Comicola. In Vietnam, most people think manga is only for entertainment and doesn’t have much value in terms of education. I hope Black Rose will change that perception, the book will not only be entertaining but also containing meaningful lessons. I also hope Black Rose will open a new direction for manga and Comicola in the future.”

Artist and writer Duong Thach Thao is the author of three previous book-length manga stories.

The SecDev Foundation sees the manga as a learning tool that youth in many countries could benefit from. Executive Director Deirdre Collings said: “Today’s youth are truly Digital Citizens, using digital spaces in new and ever creative ways.  But the digital world is also full of risk.  It is a huge challenge for parents and educators to keep up with these changes, and to help youth stay safe online.  We believe the strongest approach is to empower youth, themselves, with the knowledge to recognize digital risks and act to protect themselves and others online.”

2,000 copies of Black Rose will be distributed by NGOs in Vietnam to youth across many provinces. The book will also be sold by Comicola at its Hanoi shop. An English version of the book will be produced by the SecDev Foundation later in 2018.


Time:Sunday 4 February 2018
Location:L’Espace – French Cultural Centre in Hanoi,
24 Trang Tien Street, Hanoi, Vietnam

Michael L Gray, Program Manager, The SecDev Foundation

Nguyen Khanh Duong, Comicola (Founder and Director)

Duong Thach Thao, Comicola (Artist and Writer)