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Mobile Apps to Combat Street Harassment Follow Brutal Delhi Gang-Rape Case

BY Julia Wetherell | Wednesday, January 9 2013

Screengrabs from ICE, a New Mobile App from KPMG and the Mumbai Police Department

Last month, techPresident reported on India’s first all-female hackathon, where many programmers focused on apps to help tackle issues of sexual harassment. Only a handful of days later, the country was shocked by a horrific gang-rape and murder case, in which a young medical student from Delhi who died after being brutally sexually assaulted on a moving bus became the symbol of an escalating crisis of violence against women.

The Delhi case has brought apps that combat street harassment to the fore, as India’s Economic Times reported today. Several new apps use GPS or triangulation from mobile phone towers to locate victims, sending out automatic SMS messages at the push of a button that can be used by law enforcement agents and family to expedite response. One such app in Mumbai is ICE, a collaborative effort between the city’s police department and mobile provider KPMG that provides an emergency response toolkit that includes an audible distress signal. While most apps are available only for smartphone platforms, the developers of the app FightBack, are currently working on a version that will run on basic phones. In the wake of the Delhi incident, most apps are available for free download.

Unfortunately, no app is currently directly connected to a city’s emergency response system. Police and developers alike are eager to pilot initiatives that will allow for this, akin to Twitter-and-text-to-911 programs that are being rolled out in the U.S. and the U.K. Yet with many female professionals already questioning the wisdom of settling in Delhi, it seems that societal change may have to progress alongside tech innovation.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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