Mapping the city for safety with Safetipin

The location-based mobile app collects safety-related information and posts it for the benefit of others


Audits by individual users range in single digits. To supplement this figure, the company commissions 1,000-2,000 audits by volunteers every month. Every audit shows up as a pin on the map and is denoted by three different colours depending on the input: Red is for unsafe, amber for less safe and green for safe. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Audits by individual users range in single digits. To supplement this figure, the company commissions 1,000-2,000 audits by volunteers every month. Every audit shows up as a pin on the map and is denoted by three different colours depending on the input: Red is for unsafe, amber for less safe and green for safe. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: Have you ever felt scared to go to a place you’ve never been before and wanted to tell the world how you felt once you were safely back home? There’s an app for that and it’s available on iOS and Android.

Safetipin is a location-based mobile app which collects safety-related information from ordinary users and trained auditors and posts it for the benefit of others. The app banks on engaging citizens and their contributions to make cities safer. You can assign a score to the places you have visited on various parameters. The information gathered by the app can be used for advocacy, improving safety conditions and informing other users.

Launched in November 2013, Safetipin is available on both Google Play and Apple’s App Store, and has clocked 18,000 downloads across the globe.

“If you can measure safety, you can change behaviour. My belief is that if we can make a measure stick, it will help in changing behaviour. We work with the safety perception—the correlation between how you feel and what could be violations,” said Ashish Basu, founder, Active Learning Solutions Pvt. Ltd, which owns and runs Safetipin.

At the app’s core is an audit with nine parameters on safety perception: public transport, light, people, openness, visibility, gender diversity, walk path, security and feeling.

“These parameters have been set in accordance with international standards. We have used the ones most relevant for India. Surveillance was left out, since not much is happening in India on that front,” said Kalpana Viswanath, co-founder.

Each option is clear enough for the user to add precise information. For example, in the “people” option, you can select deserted, few people (less than 10), some crowd (more than 10 people) and crowded (many people within touching distance). Similarly, for the “feeling” option, there is frightening, uncomfortable, acceptable and comfortable. The user can upload a picture of the place and add comments with location. “Audits done after dark are the real measurement of safety. So, commissioned audits are done after dark till 10 pm,” said Basu.

Audits by individual users range in single digits. To supplement this figure, the company commissions 1,000-2,000 audits by volunteers every month. Every audit shows up as a pin on the map and is denoted by three different colours depending on the input: Red is for unsafe, amber for less safe and green for safe. You can also create options of creating your own circles of safety for the areas you frequent. The app aims to generate scores for locations, based on which you can decide on the relative safety of a particular spot.

A key feature of the app is “feeling”. A user who does not want to go through all the nine parameters can simply assign a “feeling” score. “Feelings are easier and faster to do. We get little under 2,000 entries for feelings in a month,” said Basu.

There are options to record hazards and harassment. The hazard option lets you record infrastructure problems like bad roads, poor lighting, exposed wiring, sewage waste, poor public toilets, obstruction or encroachment and collapsing structures. Options like catcalls, comments, sexual invites and stalking fall under the harassment category. There are a total of nine such choices.

The app also helps you find the nearest police station, hospital, transport and shops. Addresses, directions and emergency numbers are available under the directory feature.

The Track Me feature gives the option to be tracked by family or friends when the app is allowed to access location. Similarly, in an emergency, the app can send an SOS text message with location to your emergency contact list. “We must clarify that we are not a purely emergency app. We are a prevention app,” said Basu.

The safety information and analytics are provided to stakeholders such as the police and civic authorities. “Authorities can pick up one particular parameter to start work. We can provide data, information, best practices and analysis,” said Basu.

The south-west district of Delhi Police has initiated “Project Salamat” with Safetipin to map areas under its jurisdiction and use data to engage with residents. Policing patterns in this area have already been changed to optimize resources. The company has tied up with non-governmental organizations such as Action India, Jagori and Literacy India to set up Safetipin choupals where safety data is collected from people in the locality and then put up for discussion to bring about changes.

Currently, Safetipin is available in Delhi NCR, Gurgaon, Guwahati, Bangalore, Bogota (Colombia) and Jakarta (Indonesia). The founders plan to take it to Chennai, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Pune and Kolkata in the next two to three months. “Our focus will remain on Latin America, south-east Asia, south Asia and Africa. It is a location-based app and can be used anywhere in the world,” said Viswanath.

The company is working on a lighter version of the app, a Windows app and a version with Hindi support. It is now available in English and Spanish. The new features that would be added in the near future include safety scores and safety routes. The safety score currently available on the app comes from both commissioned auditors and individual users. In future, this data will come only from commissioned sources to establish authenticity.

The company’s revenue plan includes sharing safety scores with portals in areas of tourism, recreation and real estate. The company is running a pilot with a real estate portal to use the safety score for the properties and areas listed on the website.

Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the mBillionth Awards.

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