Is Crowdsourcing Our Safety a Pragmatic Idea?

Is Crowdsourcing Our Safety a Pragmatic Idea?

What do you think about the practicality of the idea of crowdsourcing our safety? Can the information thus retrieved be sufficiently authentic? Can we come up with a scientific enough way to quantify safety? And finally, can we leverage our contemporary mass adoption of technology and smartphones for this purpose?

More often than not, we hear of safety related tragedies that shake our communities to the core. These may include rape, street harassment, bullying or accidents because of damaged infrastructure etc. Fortunately, the innovative human spirit is as strong as ever, and technology has overtaken legislation with creative innovations to provide society with a little more control over its safety.

Let’s check one example which strengthens our belief in free crowdsourcing public safety. In April 2014, we heard about the twin explosions that rocked Boston. Immediately after the twin explosions burned downtown Boston, thousands of spectators along with marathon participants took hold of their mobile phones to call their loved ones to inform them about the situation. Later, the Boston Police Commissioner called a press conference to request the general public to submit the photographs captured during those chaotic moments. One of the thus collected images helped identify one of the primary suspects, i.e., Dzhokar Tsarnaev, to eventually bring him to justice.

Capitalizing on the mass adoption of smartphones in present times, many have turned to mobile technology to come up with emergency management utilities. Apps have been created to ping family and friends if you happen to get stuck in danger. Although useful, they are all reactive measures. They help you respond to an emergency, but do not help you avoid such incidents. So, do we have a complete solution to prevent such incidents from occurring? Safetipin very well fills this gap and includes the preventive part also.

Safetipin is much more than just an emergency management app. Ashish Basu and Kalpana Viswanath came up with this app which “gives people a way to engage with their neighborhood and communities on issues of safety.” Imagine taking a picture of an incident and uploading it with the help of Safetipin app with precise GPS coordinates. Now imagine that this pin and picture showing up on the smartphones of others in your created circle. Wow, you’ve just empowered members of your circle to make safer decisions with this available information.

Ashish is a strong believer of quantification of a problem and this reflects in Safetipin. Safetipin involves safety audits on nine parameters. These audits include augmentation of both the crowdsourced as well as professionally collected data. Thus collected and processed data can then be the basis of action that makes a neighborhood safer. The idea behind Safetipin is materializing and the government and public services authorities have started using this data for action. Other users of this data include resident associations and other community based organizations.

Thus, crowdsourced information can be very authentic if processed properly. But, it is up to each of us to participate and stay engaged to contribute to the safety and well-being of our communities.

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