News / Asia

    Indian Mobile Phone App Aims to Thwart Sexual Assaults

    A recently launched mobile phone application in India called 'Fight Back' aims to protect women against sexual assault as more women in nation's growing economy join the work force in urban areas, January 2012.
    A recently launched mobile phone application in India called 'Fight Back' aims to protect women against sexual assault as more women in nation's growing economy join the work force in urban areas, January 2012.
    Kurt Achin

    In India's burgeoning economy, more and more women are going to work in offices - exposing them to what can sometimes be dangerous urban conditions. Now, a new technological initiative aims to protect women against sexual assault.

    Cheena Sikka is typical of the modern, professional Indian woman. She works hard. She works late.

    When her shift is finished, a company cab takes her part of the way home. But she worries about the five to 10 minutes she has to walk alone to reach her door.

    "It's dark and the kind of people who are around, you cannot feel safe with them. I'm not very comfortable walking all alone," said Sikka.

    'Fight Back' tracks location

    So, before the cab even starts moving, Cheena activates a recently launched mobile phone application called "Fight Back." It begins tracking her exact location via GPS.

    "The moment you feel uncomfortable, you really don't need to do anything else but press one button," said Sikka.

    Jagdish Mitra is CEO of Canvasm Technologies, the tech company that developed Fight Back.

    When a user presses the panic button, she has a few seconds to cancel her decision. If she doesn't, a location-specific alert is sent out via text message, email, and on Facebook to any friends and family she has chosen to include in a list.

    Data from users is collated into an interactive map. Mitra said his company keeps an eye on the map - but does not serve as a public monitoring center.

    "We are not in the provision of managing the law, if you may. The law has to be managed by the people who actually are authorized to do it, which is the police and so on and so forth," said Mitra.

    Making cities safer

    Delhi's poorly lit streets can be forbidding. Official 2010 statistics, with more than 400 reported sexual assaults, have led many media organizations to label the city "India's rape capital."

    "While the app to me is very important and has a good role to play, I think what we have to be careful about is that it doesn't again fall back on women to solve their problem," said Kalpana Viswanath, a researcher with the women's advocacy organization Jagori, which focuses on making cities safer for women. Her research includes recommendations on better lighting, wider sidewalks, more thoughtful zoning - and what she calls a more "holistic" approach to designing city life.

    "What kind of a city do we want? How are we urbanizing? If we are saying that in another 15-20 years India is going to be more urban than rural, what kind of cities do we want? So if the problem is that societies and cultures and our police and our infrastructure is wanting, then that is what we need to address," said Viswanath.

    Using, improving tools

    "Most women don't go to the police because in most parts of the country, the police are seen as more part of the problem than part of the solution,"  said Hindol Sengupta, a founder of Whypoll, the civic trust partner in the Fight Back project. He said police often are "lackadaisical" in enforcing complaints about safety from women.

    "We're saying here's a tool - you can go to the police if you want, and so you should, and so you must," said Sengupta. "But in case you choose not to, and in case you can't reach them, you can directly reach out to your friends and family. And together, you can propel the system. You can propel the security apparatus, so to speak, to act."

    The makers of Fight Back say senior police officials in Delhi and other Indian cities have expressed a keen interest in establishing formal links to the system. The approval and implementation process is likely to delay that step for several months.

    You May Like

    No More Space Race for US, Rivalry Gives Way to Collaboration

    What began as a struggle for dominance in space between two world powers has changed entirely to one of joint efforts

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Move Over Millennials, Here Comes iGeneration

    How the first generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand, might change America

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020i
    X
    Ramon Taylor
    May 05, 2016 10:05 PM
    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora