It’s International Women’s Day, but sadly the world remains far more unsafe for women than men. Every day, all over the world, women experience unsafe or uncomfortable environments or incidents of verbal, non-verbal or physical sexual harassment. Just to take one statistic, U.K. Government research showed that while 85 percent of women experience some form of harassment, 90 percent of the incidents remain unreported.
Smartphone apps have appeared in the last few years to at least try to alleviate this situation to some extent. These include RedZone and Citizen.
However, few have focused specifically on women, or take a more data-led approach, which might really change the game for women’s safety.
The Safe & The City (SatC) app (available on Android and iOS) was founded last year by a public health expert who has decided to take a far smarter approach, by using GPS, crowdsourced information and police risk data to reduce the victims of opportunistic crimes and sexual harassment.
SatC today releases a large swathe of new features, with a brand new look, and all with an emphasis on the female experience, especially for those women living in London (though the app plans to roll out globally in due course). It’s also launching its partnership with UN Women U.K. to pilot research for their global safe public spaces and safe cities programme.
Founder and CEO Jillian Kowalchuk told me: “When I just moved to London, I had an incident in a dark street at night with little footfall, involving three men who verbally abused me and got very close to me, which could have escalated, but, thankfully, didn’t. I looked for a solution or platform that would help me decide where it would be safer to walk. When I couldn’t find anything, I decided to bring to market my own idea, validated by my friends and acquaintances, as well as data!”
This personal safety navigation app uses geolocation tech and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) data in its app, with the aim of preventing sexual harassment on streets.
It covers personal safety navigation; route sharing; rating and geo-tagging of different aspects of walks; and sharing data with businesses and authorities to help tackle insecurity. So, pretty comprehensive!
The new features include better navigation with turn-by-turn directions, integration with location startup what3words for greater accuracy and pinned locations of police stations and licensed premises involved in the ground-breaking Ask for Angela campaign in the U.K.
As well as all this, tech co-working spaces are being added to the app’s Safe Sites locations, and identified to users as places in the app where they can get support if they need it.
Kowalchuk should know what she’s talking about. She holds an MSc in Public Health and BA in Psychology and has more than five years of experience as a global researcher, evaluator and program implementer in public health.
“The way to think about the app,” she told me “is that we want to be the ‘Waze for pedestrian safety.’ Long term, we plan to analyze the data in conjunction with businesses and government to propose change and build safer cities all over the world.”
How does her startup plan to make revenue? The service will become a subscription service for companies, allowing businesses to be identified on the map as “safe sites.” They will have to have trained staff prepared and capable of helping potential victims of gender violence.
Additionally, businesses will be able to make the claim they are certified safe sites by SatC and use this for their own purposes.
The launch of the app is being backed by none other than Peter Barron, ex-head of Crime Performance and Strategic Risk at the London Met Police; Mariam Critchton, founder of FindMaps; Matt Rogers, serial entrepreneur; Phillip Green, ex-CFO of Deliveroo; and David White, founder of big data/AI company Import.io.
Commander Richard Smith, head of Safeguarding at the Met Police says: “This is an innovative use of our crime data that we can use together to keep people safe. Preventing people from becoming victims of crime in the first place must be a part of any sustainable strategy.”
So far Safe & the City has forged strong working partnerships with several key organizations, including UN Women U.K., the UN Women’s Global Safe Cities and the Safe Public Spaces initiative.