Now, an application which 'scores' city localities

Safety App

After a physiotherapy student was brutally gang-raped and murdered on 16 December, 2012, Kalpana Viswanath, like many other Delhi-based activists, busied themselves in a series of ‘safety audits’ to examine the prevailing security situation for the women living in and around the Capital.

According to her, the ‘numbers’ painted a bad picture but even worse was the enormous figures and data which could cause a mass panic among the city’s population, already jolted after the Nirbghaya gang-rape.

“A framework was missing. We had all the data but there had to be better ways to make use of tools with which we conducted safety audits and that’s when we got an idea to convert them into a mobile phone application,” said Viswanath. One year later, the app has more than 35,000 downloads not only in India but also other countries which include Columbia and Indonesia.

Named Saftipin, the application was first launched in Delhi in November 2013 after which it had been launched in seven other states of India. Founded by Vishwanath and her colleague Ashish Basu, the application, unlike many other safety applications, has what Vishwanath refers to, a ‘precautionary nature’ rather than an emergency one. While Basu is an entrepreneur with an interest in mobile technology, Viswanath is a researcher who has been working on issues of violence against women and safer cities for women for over 10 years. She has led research studies on violence against women in public spaces in the city and the Nirbhaya gang rape, brought the two together for producing something substantial to combat sexual harassment of women.

Based on the audits, Vishwanath and Basu developed the application, a set of nine parameters that together contribute to the perception of safety. Each audit results in a pin on the specific location where the audit was performed and also records the time and date.The perimeters include, ‘lighting in the area, openness, visibility, people density, security, walk path, transportation, gender diversity and ‘feeling’. Each perimeter is given a score out of an upper limit of five.

“We believe that quantification of safety will help in this direction and if there is a score, then a community or neighbourhood can work to improve it and see change,” Vishwanath said, adding that safety score aims at giving information to citizens about true state of safety and development in an area. She also said that the application functions on the concept of ‘heat maps’.

“Heat Map mapping application accommodates multiple map layers containing useful safety related information. You can view the list of the contents of the GPS navigation app, turn on and off the layers according to your need, and examine the symbols for layers,” read the official website of Saftipin.

The idea behind the application is also to isolate unsafe localities and bring government’s attention towards these areas where women security is the need of the hour.
“It is not only about which places are safe to go to. We work closely with planners and policy makers and want to provide them with enough information on which areas they need to focus on so that the excuse of India being too big and ungovernable becomes redundant,” added Vishwanath.

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