Cities provide new opportunities for people to build their homes and lives, but at the same time reinforce existing inequalities and often create new ones. There is increasing concern about women’s safety in cities over the past few years. The fear of violence in public spaces affects the everyday lives of women as it restricts their movement and freedom to exert their right as citizens of the city – freedom to move, study, work, and leisure.
Creating safety involves much more than just responding to violence. It is important to create the conditions by which women can move about safely and without fear of violence or assault. Fear often plays a key role in women’s experience and access to the city. Therefore, to create greater levels of safety and comfort, both actual violence and the fear of violence need to be addressed. Keeping this in mind, Active Learning Solutions developed the Safetipin app to collect information about public infrastructure and social usage of space. Safetipin is a free app and can be downloaded from the App store or Google play. This has been designed both as a tool in the hands of individual women who can access information about safety in the city and as a method of collecting data for city authorities to use for better planning and governance.
Crowdsourced Safety Audits
At the core of Safetipin is the safety audit that that can be done by anyone, anywhere in the world. The Audit measures nine parameters including lighting, the state of the walk path, as well as the presence of people and specifically women, on the streets and ‘eyes on the street’, security and nearness of public transport. Each audit appears as a pin on the map and is used to compute the Safety Score of an area.
An individual user can conduct a safety audit, pin places where she feels unsafe or has faced any form of harassment. She is also able to see all the information that has been uploaded by others and make informed decisions about moving around the city safely. Women (and men) can see the Safety Score of any place in the city and can also use it when they visit new cities. Therefore, the aim of Safety audit is to put safety data and information in the hands of women and men to assess safety of different locations in the city. For the city authority, Safetipin also provides large scale crowd sourced data and provides a platform for interaction with citizens on their safety concerns.
Visual Big Data
Safetipin also seeks to collect Big Data for helping city stakeholders improve urban infrastructure related to safety. In order to enhance the crowd sourced data , Safetipin devised a second app called Safetipin Nite. This app has been specifically designed to take photographs of the city at night. The phone with the app is attached on to the windscreen of a car and takes photographs at regular intervals as the car moves along.
As the data is collected, it is directly uploaded to the Safetipin servers, and it is analysed on the basis of the 8 parameters of the Safetipin app – lighting, openness, visibility, crowd, presence of women, presence of security, availability of public transport and the state of the walk path. The pictures taken are analysed and coded by a team in Safetipin on the above mentioned parameters in great detail. Once the data is coded, it appears as an audit pin on the Safetipin app and web interface. Therefore, the data collected through the photographs can be seen by people in the city to make safer decisions.
The purpose of developing this app was to find a way to collect large scale data in cities at regular intervals for use by urban planners and other urban stakeholders. We have begun using this method to collect data in more than 25 cities in India and globally. Through this method we have collected over a million pictures globally.
The data is very useful for planners, police and others as it gives safety parameters over a large part of the city. For example, in Delhi, data has been collected over 4000 km of road across the entire city and similarly over 3000 km in Bogota city which resulted in around 50,000 audit points in Delhi and 30,000 audit points in Bogota. This means that it can be used for urban decision making and resource planning by city officials. In Delhi the data was used in assessing the level of lighting in the city, the state of the walk path or how safe people feel in the city. Based on the data, the city government has fixed dark spots in the city, as well as improved police patrolling in areas which were pointed out as having a poor Safety Score. In Bogota, the data was used to improve safety along the bike paths to encourage women to use bikes even after dark.
Further it is useful as it allows regular data collection. Thus, if the city government effects changes which could have an impact on safety, a fresh mapping of the area can be done to measure if change has taken place. It therefore becomes a very useful tool to measure change and impact.
Safetipin will be used as part of this British Academy project on disconnected infrastructures as one way to measure and assess the safety infrastructure in two cities in Kerala, India. Women in low-income neighbourhoods will share their experience of safety and the lack of it though interviews, as well as use the Safetipin app to produce a digital map of their experience of the city.
At the project workshop held in London in February 2018, discussions took place about the importance of looking at Safetipin data along with qualitative data from interviews and focus group discussions with women in the selected neighbourhoods. Further, women will walk about their neighbourhoods pointing out safety concerns which will mapped along with the Safetipin data to see how the two datasets compare. The aim is to collect comprehensive data in the community in order to work with them to bring about change and make the spaces safer for them.
By Dr Kalpana Viswanath, Co-Founder & CEO of Project Societal Partner Safetipin