Can tech make the streets safer for women?

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Some startups in India are focusing on remedying the country’s severe problem with gender-based violence. While sexual assault is a systemic problem on a global scale, it is a particularly abhorrent one in India with a rape occurring every 20 minutes. As disturbing as that figure sounds, it has been cited as too low by women’s organizations and international humanitarian groups because of underreporting. There is a host of reasons why women do not report sexual assault, and that combined with the general tolerance and cultural acceptance of gender-based violence in India create a dangerous atmosphere. Some technology companies are trying to change such cultural practice.

SafeCity is a website that allows users to describe in detail where an incident took place and when in order to publicize any patterns and to identify details of crimes. The site aims to collate information about violence to “showcase location based trends,” according to the website. And it also targets getting local administration to solve the problem of street violence “through urban planning aimed at addressing infrastructural deficits.”

The site states that it aims to take its data “forward to lobby for systemic change in terms of urban planning and infrastructure, reforms in our law that are premised on gender equity, and social changes to loosen the shackles that do not allow us otherwise to live the way we want to, with the freedom we want to, and with the rights that are fundamental to all of us…”

Perhaps most important is the encouragement SafeCity aims to provide victims to speak out — ideally turning the tide on the cultural trend of silence. Tech in Asia quotes Elsa D’Silva, creator of SafeCity:

If there are poor official statistics, the problem is not visible and is not a true representation of the actual problem. Therefore we need to break our silence and document every instance of harassment and abuse in public spaces so that we can find the most effective solutions at the neighborhood level.

Another India-based app dubbed Safetipin provides crowd-sourced information about routes through cities that are safe or not. Users enter their location or intended routes and the app provides safety ratings based on information that other users have provided about the area. Safetipin is part of the U.N. Women’s Safe Cities Global Initiative.

Indeed, on a global level it appears as though entrepreneurs are taking advancements in technology to this level of public safety — particularly for women and in places rife with violence against women. In Egypt, Harassmap is a similar project like SafeCity and Safetipin in that it uses crowd-sourced information to create a map that allows users to see reports on violence, and the technology encourages women to anonymously report incidents of harassment in public spaces. Harassmap has been around for a few years, but as with crowd-sourced technology, it only gets better the more people use it.

And therein lies the vicious cycle that apps like these aim to break because the more women who report assault, the more exposed the problem becomes. Ideally, then, government, law enforcement, and communities can do something about it.

http://blogs.blouinnews.com/blouinbeattechnology/2015/07/23/can-tech-make-the-streets-safer-for-women/

Google Play Store…  Personal & Women Safety App

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