National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), headquartered in India, is a global trade body representing the Indian IT and BPO industries. NASSCOM has recently kick-started an initiative, AppFame, to develop apps for the safety of women in India.
A recent incident involving the rape and death of a 23-year old woman in the capital, New Delhi sparked large scale protests and condemnation of the government. This initiative came from a recommendation of a government-appointed panel. The panel suggested downloadable mobile phone applications that can help women in distress such as a one touch function which can send distress signal and location of the phone to the nearest police station. The initiative is held as a contest and the winning apps will be developed by members of NASSCOM.
Already existing and popular apps include Mahindra’s Fightback, which used to be a paid app. But after the Delhi incident, Mahindra has made it free. It uses GPS, GPRS, SMS, emails and even Facebook to inform friends in need of help. It shows location on Google Maps and sends SOS emergency text messages to close and dear ones. The app is available for Android and Nokia phones and for phones which support Java apps.
Apps like On Watch sends time based alerts with GPS location to friends or relatives if the individual does not reach home in a set time.
Sentinel sends out instant alerts to let friends, family or police know about possible threats and come for them. This app is available for about Rs.50 ($1) on the Android and other platforms.
There is also a Delhi Helpline app specifying different departments to contact in emergency.
Other popular apps are Guardly, Life360, Circle of 6, and Hollaback which takes pictures of would-be harassers and uploads it.
Cab4me app helps get a cab anywhere at any time. Though it would not necessarily be helpful in an Indian context.
The Indian IT/ITES/BPO industry employs a large number of women. Many have risen to top managerial positions. This makes it more comfortable for women working in the lower tiers. Women, especially in the BPO sector constitute about 50% of the workforce. They work mostly in the night shifts. The “BPO Code of Conduct” lists the safety and precautionary measures needed to be taken by the companies for the protection of women working and commuting for work.
In these increasingly unsafe times, safety apps are becoming part of the lady’s bag already consisting of pepper sprays, fancy self defense key chains, stun guns and even tasers.