Centre for Internet & Society

The article by Athira A. Nair was published in the Economic Times on December 10, 2014. Sunil Abraham gave his inputs.

Even as the nation recovers from the shock of an Uber passenger being raped by her cabbie, there is a new app that has repackaged itself to "get back the lost trust and security for the daily commuter". FrndiNeed, a socially-enabled app, which utilizes the user's geo-location, connects the user with friends in the vicinity and requests them for a lift. The app, a variant of those that poke friends for instant meet-ups, has an SOS tab for emergency.

Kunal Kishore, the Delhi-based co-founder of FrndiNeed, said the app was originally meant to catch up with friends who were within a 2-5 km radius."However, when we developed the app in August, we thought of such (women's security) situations also," he told ET.

Newer app developers are looking at preventing a crisis and creating safer situations for women rather than just providing panic buttons. Delhi-based group Socialcops collects data from civilians and authorities to find the safest and fastest routes for users. This app tells the police about the routes which need attention. Prukalpa Shankar, co-founder, said: "We are launching the SocialCops application in Kar nataka through the new Mobile One governance platform."

Jasmeen Patheja, founder of the Blank Noise Project, said apps should be part of a larger system connecting the woman with the neighbourhood, the police and family, and not something that creates panic. "The Circleof6 app created primarily in the US scenario where daterapes are rampant, puts the user in touch with six friends the minute she begins to feel uncomfortable on a date," she said.Jasmeen has not come across a case in which an app has helped a woman in an emergency .

The police is tweaking its app to connect women in trouble to the police. Their six-month-old `DCP SahAya' app will incorporate a facility which will alert the police control room or the local police station, revealed Rohini Katoch Sepat, DCP Bengaluru South-East.

Sunil Abraham, the executive director of the Centre for Internet and Society, believes that while certain mobile apps could provide a degree of safety, it would be naive to think that technology will be the solution."How many people do you trust to help you at any time of night? For women, whose emergency contacts are their parents, it would be difficult to alert them on a date night. Also, in the most pessimistic scenario, the mobile signal could be dead, and you may not be able to give an alert at all."

Jessie Paul, CEO of Paul Writer Strategic Advisory, felt that although IT is an enabler and apps are a step in the right direction, they were not preventive.

"To some extent, I believe these are superficial. We should have a centralized database for crime which will make it difficult for criminals to escape and rehabilitate in other parts of the country ," he said.

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