As anyone with a smartphone can attest, most of the time our phones are used to send WhatsApps and play Brick Breaker rather than to do anything useful. In India, though, smartphones are being put to good use. A number of apps have been created in order to boost women’s safety, particularly in urban areas.
Sexual assault has been a problem in India for some time, but it recently received international attention with the rape and death of a 23-year-old medical student in New Delhi. When she was traveling on a bus with her male companion, a drunken gang of men assaulted her with a metal rod. When she died of her injuries, she became a martyr for activists who sought to change life for women in the country.
Since then, a number of apps have popped up to help combat creeps in India. SafeCity was created by four women, and serves as a forum to help women – especially those who are traveling late at night or alone – evade areas where unwanted attention runs rampant. That app has been partnered with SafeTrac, which allows users to be tracked through the city so that their loved ones can know when they have safely arrived at their intended destination. That app admittedly gave me the heebie jeebies, as I wondered whether people with less benevolent intentions could also follow women around the city, but it seems that the information is only sent to people filed under the user’s emergency contacts. Even the police are getting in on the action, with ICE, which was created by the Mumbai Police Department, detailing emergency procedures.
However, some people are rightfully concerned that the apps will be futile in India. Though the country has become prosperous in recent years, smartphones account for a small portion of the country’s 700 million mobile phone users. That may be true, but the number of smartphone users can only increase. In the meantime, it is always wonderful to see technology be used for good, not inanity.