Technological advancements have shown that apps can be a fundamental part of our safety regime. According to Business Tech, from April to December 2016 ,“over 960,000 serious crimes cases [were] reported to the SAPS, averaging over 3550 crimes every day, or 148 crimes every hour”.
Namola also dubbed the “Uber for Armed Response”, is an app launched by the Brooklyn Police Station in Pretoria to improve their response time in emergencies, as it instantly sends out emergency alerts to police officers. Brooklyn SAPS Captain, Colette Weilbach, explained that once an alert has been sent, the nearest Brooklyn SAPS and Tshwane Metro Police Department vehicles that are Namola app compliant are able to see the exact location of the incident. She says, “While on route to an incident the officer is able to receive messages from the citizen and phone them if they need more information.” Yusuf Abramjee, Namola Chief Ambassador says, “Namola is the fastest growing safety app in South Africa. It’s top on the App Store charts.”
Another proudly African app is I-cut, developed by Kenyan school girls to bring female genital mutilation (FGM) to an end. Although FGM is now illegal in Kenya, statistics show that one in four girls still suffer from this practice. One of the developers, Purity Achieng says a close friend in school “was cut [and] never came back to school. She was among the smartest girls I knew.” Five teens, aged between 15 and 17 years old, developed this app to request assistance and report abuse to creditable law enforcement organisations, and when the app is used it connects the user with legal, medical and therapeutic counselling.
bSafe is another app that is enhancing the feeling of safety. According to the Elle website, it works by “[setting] up a network of your loved ones, or “Guardians”, and they can ‘follow’ you home via GPS trace. Then, if you press the app’s alarm in an emergency, they’ll get an alert with your exact location, while ‘bSafe’ will record audio and video from your phone in case you want to present it to the police later.” What makes this app even better is that its advanced features are free.
When asked for her opinion on mobile apps preventing violence against women, gender equality activist, Keshet Bachan said, “One thing this mobile app could help with is mapping the actual instances of violence. At the same time the app could also shed light on the places where women are more prone to abuse and call for concrete actions like streetlights to improve safety.”
Bringing crime prevention into the digital age could be the answer in a time when an increasing number of Africans have access to cell phone services, while barely one in three Africans have a proper drainage system. This being said, by using your phone as a virtual witness you have a better chance at combatting your chances of becoming a victim.
Illustration: Sally Hartzenburg