As the author of Enjoying India: Women’s Safety, this is a subject that is close to my heart. When I saw this well-written article on safety apps, I had to repost it.
With the incidence of the Uber taxi rape, concerns about women’s safety have taken front seat. After the Delhi rape case in 2012, there was a surge in women’s safety apps that hit the market. Use of technology to ensure the safety of women is a really good concept. But does it work? Let’s find out.
What exactly are women security apps?
When you search for apps facilitating women’s safety on Play Store, there is a beeline of apps that appear on your screen. Let’s talk about a few selective apps that have witnessed a decent amount of downloads. All of them have almost similar features, with a few exceptions.
The basic function of these apps is to send an emergency SMS to the user’s family/ relatives/ friends. Apps like Nirbhaya, Women Safety Shield, Fight Back, I Am Safe and many others in the same category employ the user woman’s GPS location and send it to the emergency numbers stored by her.
The Safecity app asks women users to submit their experiences about the security in particular areas. Higher the cases of harassment in an area, darker are the red spots on the crowd map. Other users can identify and assess the security of such areas for a particular time and avoid visiting them if they find it unsafe.
The Women’s Safety apps use technical functions like Geo Face technology, GPS location identification, SMS or Photo alert, real time tracking, etc.
How has the response been?
After the 2012 Delhi rape incident, apps for women’s safety flooded the market. The need felt by women for downloading these apps was at its peak in the immediate aftermath of the incident. The interest in these apps has decreased gradually in recent times.
The number of downloads for these apps froze for some duration. Initially, the Woman Security Shield app got approximately 5000 downloads on Play Store, while Nirbhaya got nearly 50,000 downloads. The excellent initial response for Nirbhaya app eventually subsided like all other apps.
Apps like Vith U, Nirbhaya and many more are currently functional, but are not being updated from time to time. The last time Vith U, downloaded over 10,00,000 times on Play Store, was updated on November 26, 2013; suggesting that new need based techniques haven’t been added to the app. It is the major reason why users have turned their back on these apps.
What is women’s take on these apps?
If you go through the reviews these apps have received on app store, the first thing you will notice is that users are not happy with the apps. They like the idea behind the apps but doubt its actual implementation and utility of it. Vaishali Aanand’s comment on Vith U app is an ideal representation of women’s feelings towards these apps. She says, “Initiative is good but it doesn’t work properly, it gives more ad alert than security alert.”
Apps designed and used out of India have better functionality and response from users. Women users of Be Safe app are satisfied with the app performance.
What is the future for these apps?
As far as India is concerned, use of technology for aiding women’s security is important. Today, apps might not play a vital role in security, but its constant use and regular updates as per the need and awareness about security will help the apps see good days in the future.
Presently, apps work on inputs given by women themselves. Since they are not in a condition to provide inputs at all times, external monitoring and integration of various users on the same app can help provide better results. Integration of SOS facility and GPS can prove beneficial for the users.
Posted by Nachiket Joshi
Reprinted with permission from Trak.in