Safety Catch

Woman on unsafe street

The first mobile phone application geared towards women's safety is set to be launched in Delhi.

For a woman, being out alone on Delhi's notoriously unsafe streets is not always the best of experiences. With the rising curve of crime against women, women in the city are left with limited options for seeking help against sexual harrassment. But things could change for the better by the end of this month with the launch of a mobile phone application that can send out an SOS message and get help sooner. Called FightBack, the app is the outcome of a partnership between Whypoll Trust, a Delhi-based voluntary organisation, and CanvasM, a subsidiary of Tech Mahindra. It will be the first application of its kind in the country, devoted to women's safety.

For Whypoll Trust, started by two journalists Hindol Sengupta and Shweta Punj, the app is an extension of their efforts to make Delhi safe for women. From July this year, the NGO surveyed around one lakh people in Delhi over three months, using the traditional questionnaire and the online medium, to gauge their perception about the unsafe areas in the city. The entire exercise was based on crowdsourcing, and not on official statistics. They were inspired by a similar survey in Cairo, Egypt, on sexual crimes against women in that city, called Harassmap.org. The result of the survey has been projected on to a "Virtual Unsafe Map", the first map of its kind for Delhi, or for that matter any Indian city.

Partly based on the map, the app is activated in two parts. One, when a person is passing through a "troubled" area and activates it, the location status is displayed on social networking profiles such as Facebook or Twitter, so that friends know where the person is at that moment. The GPS-enabled app consults the database on the safety perception of the area and also issues a warning to the user in an unsafe zone. The second part is the SOS message that is sent when one is in trouble. The user pre-programs five mobile numbers to whom the SOS is sent. Else, it can also be a combination of numbers and a message on one's Facebook or Twitter profile. Recipients will immediately know that the user is in trouble. The SOS message is activated even if the phone is locked. "In February when we were ideating on the next application to be developed, the topic of women's safety came up. We thought it would be appropriate to work on a technological deterrent. A lot of thought has gone into making it fool-proof, considering the situation in which it will be used," says Sirisha Voruganti, chief technology officer, CanvasM, which is developing it primarily as an individual application to be launched on Whypoll's website.

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