An App that Helps You Decide the Safest Route Home

Just moved to a new city and want to know how safe it is? Check out its safety score? And wouldn’t it be great if you could choose the safest route to your destination even before you left the house?

This article on using mobile technology for social good is part of the #Mobile4Good series & is made possible by Vodafone India.

Just moved to a new city and want to know how safe it is? Check out its safety score? And wouldn’t it be great if you could choose the safest route to your destination even before you left the house? Now you can.

Crime in urban areas, particularly in big cities like Delhi, is of concern to all of us today. Women are afraid to step out of their homes after dark, parents are concerned about the safety of their children as they go to and fro from school, and even adult males are afraid of being attacked by unsavory characters in desolate or badly lit areas.

Kalpana Viswanath, with her 20 years of urban safety experience, has come up with an interesting app that not only enables you to complain about unsafe areas to local authorities so they can take appropriate action, but also helps you decide on your own as to which areas you want to travel through and which areas you want to avoid.

Kalpana Viswanath
Kalpana Viswanath, Founder, Safetipin

“Various safety audits, based on nine parameters, have been done to check how safe a particular location is. These include lighting, number of people in an area, number of women in that area, how far is the public transport, is there a walk path, etc. The area is then scored on a scale of 5. The higher the score, the safer that area,” says Viswanath.

Delhi has been in the news for being unsafe for women for quite some time. I decided to try and address the problem. I contacted Ashish Basu who was with NIIT to design the app,” she adds.

The app is called Safetipin and it also includes such features as GPS tracking, emergency contact numbers, directions to safe locations, pins showing safe and unsafe areas, and a safety score for each location on the map.

Launched in November 2013, Safetipin has been installed by over 35,000 users so far and led to many prompt actions by policy makers.

How does it work?

Users can mark safe places according to various parameters.
Users can mark safe places according to various parameters.

This free map based application helps users check the safety of a location. Safety is determined through a safety score which is derived through safety audits. These audits are usually done by the Safetipin team but anyone who downloads the app can also do the audits.

Users can audit a location through app’s audit feature which has nine parameters focusing on safety: public transport, light, people, openness, visibility, gender diversity, walk path, security and feeling.

These parameters have been set as per international standards and the ones relevant to India are included in the app.

For example, in the “feeling” option, you can select frightening, uncomfortable, acceptable, comfortable, etc., and in the “people” option users can select whether the location is crowded or deserted, etc.

The app is available on Android and iOS
The app is available on Android and iOS

Users can also comment on and discuss safety and infrastructure issues, post pictures and track their loved ones.

The app also has features to record “hazards and harrassments”. Users can choose “harassments” from categories such as catcalls, comments, stalking, etc. There are options to record hazardous infrastructure issues like poor lighting, poor public toilets, exposed wiring, etc.

If you want to know more about a neighbourhood, you can create circle of interest and any post through the app in this circle will show up on a wall tagged for that circle. You can also get access to information on nearby hospitals, police stations, pharmacy, and nearby safety services under the directory feature.

Users’ pins on the map help other people determine if a particular location is safe. “We are generating a lot of data on different locations. The app helps the government and policy makers to take action and improve the safety of locations,” says Viswanath.

Safetipin shares these safety scores with various portals and organizations in the fields of tourism, real estate, and recreation as part of their revenue model.

The impact

9 Audit parameters help the user figure out the best route and location to travel.
9 Audit parameters help the user figure out the best route and location to travel.

With the help of the social audits done through Safetipin, several actions have been taken to improve the safety of locations in Delhi. In Dwarka, various sign boards with emergency and helpline numbers were posted at various locations.

In addition, better lighting was installed at various bus terminals with help from the Delhi Transport Corporation. Seeing the different safety scores of the bus stops, many users were able to better plan the best possible routes to take.

The data generated through around 800 safety audits conducted by the app will be further used by the government to implement changes at various locations in the city.

Thought getting more people to use the app has been an issue because of lack of awareness, gradually more people are coming on board. Recently, Uber cabs partnered with Safetipin to take the initiative to the next level by providing Safetipin access to partner-drivers and their cars. These drivers will work with safety auditors of Safetipin at night in different location. The collaboration will also help in getting crucial inputs from thousands of passengers who use the cab service.

The larger goal

Safetipin also enables users to look for nearest hospitals and police stations.
Safetipin also enables users to look for the nearest hospitals and police stations.

In the future the team wants to expand to more cities across the globe. Currently working in nine Indian cities — Delhi NCR, Gurgoan, Guwahati, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Pune, and Kolkata — the team wants to take this app worldwide. The app is also available in Bogota (Colombia) and Jakarta (Indonesia).

Already working with around nine NGOs, Viswanath wants to get more partners and expand her area of work. Safetipin is working on lighter version of the app and also coming up with new fetaures like Hindi support and identifying safety routes just like one does in Google maps.

The app is available on iOS and Android.

To know more about the app, check out the Safetipin website.

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