07 March 2013

New Technology Protects Indian Women

In December I wrote an article about the protests against the terrible gang rape in New Dehli. Today, on the International Women's Day, I will tell you about some innovations aiming to give Indian women more security.

Neha Gupta imageCrime against humanity
"It’s a very big crime, not only against women but against humanity", the QA Engineer Neha Gupta said to me when it was first known what had happened in New Dehli. And she is right.

I think many men felt the same when they joined the women in demonstrations all over India, first in rage over the cruelty of the rape and then in sorrow of the young woman's death.  "Real men don't rape" was a common message on signs and banners.

Unfortunately the rape in New Dehli was not a single incident but rather a symptom of the insecure situation many Indian women live with and the lack of interest from the authorities to do anything about it. Therefore the massive protests in December have been followed by further actions and demonstrations, and now we can see some results from them.

Security from smartphone apps
India is well known for the high standard of its IT industry, so it is not surprising that some of the good news is in the form of technical inventions that should be interesting to many outside India also.

Vipul Dindulkar, Office Manager at the Indore office, told me that two companies have developed similar smartphone apps. Those new apps let women and others who fear for their security allow people follow their travels via GPS, and in case of an emergency they can press a button to send an SMS, e-mail or call to these people.

In January Kritilabs launched SafeTrac, a free e-tracking app that tracks the user’s movements on a GPS-based grid and displays them via the web to the people designated by the user. In case there is an emergency, the software will also send out alerts to a list of phone numbers and e-mails registered by the user.

NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies) is an Indian non-profit organization for business, trade and research in software technology. This year's winner of the Nasscom Social Innovation Honours in the "Social Innovation by Individual/ Group" category was Stipator, a smartphone app developed by a young woman employed by Microsoft in Hyderabad and three of her collegues.

"I would be travelling for work in the evening hours and my mother would constantly call me, asking where have I reached, and if I was doing fine," says Richa Yadav to The Indian Express. "It set me thinking that there should be some mechanism wherein my parents are automatically informed of my location, and in case of an emergency, they should get an alarm too."

Need for simpler solutions
Of course these apps can only help those who own a smart phone. SafeTrac is currently available for Android mobile handsets and some basic phones that run on Java, and Stipator only supports Windows Phone 7.5. Therefore both companies are researching to find a solution that will be available for everyone.

I wish we lived in world where noone - woman or man - had to fear for their security, but as that is far from reality I welcome all initiatives that can improve the situation. They will also make people more aware of the problem and hopefully help to achive the change of attitudes that is the only way to make the world a better place for everyone in the long run.

Kate Kalmström Business Solutions

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