In support of 16 Days of Activism, we’ve highlighted three impressive safety technology apps.
No one wants to live in constant fear - fear of being attacked while taking a walk around your neighbourhood, fear of dying at the hands of a jealous lover, or of being a random target of an opportunistic criminal. Yet this has sadly been the reality of many South African women and children, especially over the past few years.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, Human Rights Day.

In support of 16 Days of Activism, we’ve highlighted three impressive safety technology apps that we believe every South African woman should have at least one of on her phone. While technology can neither replace what human beings should fix within themselves nor the role of law enforcement, it can help.

And yes, it’s sad that we partly have to rely on apps for some level of security, but if that’s what it takes so we can relax with some peace of mind, so be it.

Namola

According to Statistics SA’s Victims of Crime Survey, 1.2 million South African households experienced 1.5 million crime incidents in 2016/17. Most of these victims of crime probably contacted the national police emergency line, 10111, for help in their time of need. Some got the assistance they needed, some, unfortunately, didn’t.

To bridge the communication gap, and get help fast, Dial Direct Insurance has partnered with Namola to make South Africa’s fastest growing safety mobile application available nationally.

Namola is a free crime response app that allows users to share their GPS co-ordinates, name and nature of the emergency with a 24/7 response call centre and emergency contacts of your choice. 

You can add up to five emergency contacts who will be alerted whenever you request assistance. They will be able to see your current location during an emergency and can message you and the Namola control room to understand what’s happening and to help you get to safety. For genuine alerts, police, other emergency responses and citizen responders are then dispatched and monitored.

If you’ve had an accident or witnessed one, where the response of police and/or medics is required, getting help is as simple as opening the app and pressing the Request Assistance button. There’s also a built-in SMS function in case it’s not possible to speak aloud during the emergency. 

More than 200 000 South Africans nationwide have signed up with Namola. Since its launch in October 2017, Namola has assisted over 10 000 South Africans in getting help in real incidents.

bSafe

bSafe is a personal safety app in which users create a “social safety network” of individuals who are notified in case of an emergency or in situations where the user feels unsafe. Various features allow users to invite friends to follow their location via GPS when on the move, quickly send their location information to friends, set a timer that will automatically send an alarm to friends if they don’t return in time to turn it off, or initiate a fake call to their phone if they want an interruption.

In an emergency, the user can send an alarm to friends with their location information. The user can also decide whether they want the alarm to sound a loud noise on their phone or be silent so they can discreetly trigger it. The basic version is free.

Users should only invite people they know. Before adding friends or family to your network, you should have a conversation with them around privacy details. There is no limit on or a minimum number of contacts the user can invite to the network. The user also has the ability to select a primary contact who will also get a phone call, in addition to a text message, in the event that you set off the alarm. They can also choose to use a pin code on the app to increase security. The pin would be required in order to disarm a sent alarm.

MiBlackBox

The increasing incidence of situations requiring cellphone users to record unfolding events on their mobile devices has prompted the launch of MiBlackBox. The service is a virtual witness to volatile and emergency situations by enabling mobile users to record calls, images and videos at the touch of a button. MiBlackBox’s standout feature is that it automatically encrypts and stores all voice recordings on secure servers.

“We’ve all viewed cellphone footage where those caught in the act attempt to seize victims’ mobile phones. With MiBlackBox’s offsite secure server, once incriminating files are recorded, it doesn’t matter what happens to the cellphone,” says Brent Thomson, managing director of MiBlackBox. 

The service‘s primary feature is the ability to set up the service so that recorded files and location information are sent to preset emergency contacts in case of an emergency. The service costs just R12 a month.

App registrations are handled within the app after downloading it from the app or play stores. Each emergency contact is notified by SMS at the time of being registered along with a link to download the app should they so wish. “For cellphone users facing potentially life-threatening situations at home, in the traffic, at work or simply out and about, MiBlackBox is the most reliable virtual witness to events as they unfolded,” says Thomson. 

Importantly for a country trying to level the playing field for all citizens, MiBlackBox can be accessed by all local cellphone users, regardless of whether they currently use an advanced smartphone or a basic feature phone.

The safety of women has always been a critical issue.

We need to change the situation so that women do not feel unsafe in their own country.