There's now an app that can measure how safe an area is, based on crowdsourced data.
Kalpana Vishwanath and Ashish Basu are the cofounders of Safetipin, an app they created with the intention of making public spaces safer for women.
First created and launched in India, the idea took its origin from the fear that women and girls experience before traveling to or through certain areas which were known to be unsafe.
In India, the debate on sexual violence and how to curb it rages on. Recent years have seen governments pass stricter, more stringent laws and increase security forces, and even pass a law making it compulsory for public buses to install a panic button.
Safetipin crowdsources information based on nine factors in order to measure how safe the area in question is. These factors are lighting, openness, visibility, people density, security, walk path, transportation in the area, gender, and feeling.
While the first eight of these are independent variables, the last one, feeling, is a dependent variable and its data is observed in conjunction with the previous ones. For example, if a user feels apprehensive about walking through a certain area, it could be because of fewer people, dim lighting, and the absence of other commuters.
A "safety score" is accumulated after a certain number of entries are submitted per area. These scores range from one to ten and are represented respectively by green, amber, or red pins.
There are also forums where users can post about things that could affect safety, like malfunctioning traffic lights, broken lampposts or bad roads.
The app also provides information about the location of the nearest ATMs and pharmacies, and their hours of operation.
What"s more, it can also act as a GPS tracker, allowing the users' loved ones to track their location.
It is available in English, Hindi, Spanish, Mandarin, and Bahasa, and is currently operational in 10 Indian cities, including Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai. It’s also expanding its international presence, already operating in Jakarta, Nairobi, Bogota, and Manila, as well as collecting data in eight other cities, including Rio de Janeiro (just in time for the Olympics), Kuala Lumpur, and Johannesburg.
While the app now has more than 100,000 contributions from its users about the safety of different areas, initially, it was difficult to motivate them to contribute beyond the first couple of times. Safetipin then enlisted the help of volunteers, and once users saw more information being added to the app, they started contributing more.
In September 2015, Safetipin partnered with Uber, the car sharing service. After an Uber driver in Delhi had recently been accused by a passenger of raping her, the Indian government had temporarily banned Uber taxis for not having adequate checks in place before hiring drivers.
Uber has since installed outward-facing cameras on the dashboards of cars, so that it can photograph different parts of the cities, along with factors like how well areas are lit and how densely populated they are. The data is then sent to Safetipin and used to collate safety scores.
In partnership with Uber, Safetipin is planning to expand to 50 cities across Africa, Asia, and South America.
These safety scores are useful to the police and other law enforcement agencies in determining whether security in the locality needs to be upped. They can help the police make unsafe areas safer, fix broken amenities, and repair roads.
The scores also have the potential of determining the real estate value of the area, as well as increasing or decreasing the business of hotels and restaurants.
The co-founders of the app aim to empower its users with knowledge that can enable them to make informed decisions and get from A to B safely.