And now, Indian IT apps to ensure safety of women

Following the brutal gang-rape of a young female student in Delhi on Dec. 16, the country's IT industry has come up with applications to ensure the safety of women in Indian cities.
Written by Swati Prasad, Contributor

The New Year began on a somber note in India, due to the sad demise of a 23-year-old paramedical student following a brutal gang-rape. She had been flown to Singapore for treatment, but did not pull through her injuries.

There is a lot of anger amongst Indians. Citizens are holding campaigns demanding more safety for women. They want a complete change in attitude whereby women get more respect in society. India has never seen something like this before--and with so much pressure from the masses, a change seems inevitable.

The IT industry too is also doing its bit by coming up with various applications that offer more security for women. Various news reports in India highlight new applications that can be used by women in cities to get help in case of emergency.

One such example is Sentinel, a smart-phone application meant to serve as a virtual security guard for women. Women can press a button on their phone in case they are being stalked or harassed. The app sends out instant alerts. The idea is to let friends, family or police find those in trouble and save them. The app is available for just about INR 50 (US$0.91) on the Android and other platforms.

Similarly, CanvasM--a Mahindra group firm--has developed Fightback. The application was launched in 2011 and users were previously charged an annual subscription of INR 100 (US$1.83). But, after the Dec. 16, 2012 rape case, the company has started giving free access to the application.

The app helps track the location of the user and if she is under any danger she can send an alert within seconds, which will show her location secretly. At the time of signing up, the user can give the mobile number and email address of five contacts, to whom the alert message will be delivered in case of an emergency. The company is also in talks with the Delhi Police to incorporate them in the app. For instance, if the user presses the panic button on the app then a message would go to the Delhi Police.

And then there is ICE (short for "in case of emergency") from the Mumbai Police and KPMG. This application uses global positioning systems in mobile phones to track the location of the person in distress.

Fightback goes a step further and integrates it to Facebook. So, when a user sends out an alert her Facebook status is immediately updated with it. When the Facebook message or hyperlink in the SMS is clicked it shows the location of the alert on Google Maps with the time of the alert.

There are some more applications--like Circle of 6, Life 360, B Safe and SOS Whistle. All four of these are free applications. SOS Whistle raises an alarm, rather than send sms alerts to friends and family. I just wish the IT industry to build applications to change the mindsets of men who actually commit such a heinous crime!

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