12th Mar 2013
It's Women's Day again, and like every year, people take time off to sing praises for what women mean to them, and how they brighten up the world. However, the recent past has thrown up some facts in the open, many of which have been staring at us in the eye for ages.
As women become more vocal about the "atrocities" targeted towards them, the internet gives them the perfect platform to voice/vent out their anguish. While the venting is the aftermath of an incident, technology has also come as a protector, with several smartphone/tablet apps that aim to keep women safe when they are venturing out, unescorted. How much of this is actually useful, and makes the world safer, is not even worth debating. Let us look at some popular initiatives currently making the rounds, and try figuring out what is the best way to make these as useful as possible:
There are several apps that "inform" your loved ones of your presence and movement. However considering all the limitations of the current tech infrastructure in the country, these apps hardly deliver what they promise. 3G data connectivity is priced exorbitantly, and in most cases doesn't offer you promised speeds. Moreover, with all the mess around the 2G spectrum allocation, just getting a service provider that lasts seems like a big ask. All in all, the internet penetration in the country is dismal, to say the least. Cyber bullying is another issue that women have to put up with.
Going a step further, the budget smartphones that have entered the Indian market don't seem to be of much help either. Most phones promise GPS navigation via internet, which doesn't really help on slow connections. Moreover, the battery life on such devices is pathetic. But all that doesn't seem so bad: After all in urban India, women at least have the privilege to carry a cell phone around!
So if your phone is showing sparks of life, and has a bit of signal coverage, instead of fumbling around with an app, go ahead and actually make a call to someone who can come to your rescue. However, if updating your phone with a "safety app" makes you feel safer, read here to know how well it really works. While I really have nothing against location-tracking apps personally, it is a double edged sword: On one hand it tells your loved ones where to find you, but if the information falls in the "wrong hands", you may also be stalked, or robbed.
While precaution is always better than cure, there are times when you have no choice but to voice your anguish. Initiatives such as Safecity.in and Delhi Police's Special Cell For Women online help women have an outlet to make complaints. Of the two, the former comes across as a half-baked concept, and the latter looks more like a one-way communication stream (or a publicity stunt, you can decide which one is true by yourself). Coming back to Safecity.in, the website has its heart in the right place: It lets you log sexual harassment incidents based on the nature of the crime as well as its location. However, it doesn't connect you with any officials to bring the perpetrators to book. So while it does let you speak your heart out, it does only that: You may also get trolled/ridiculed in public, if the person you write about is net-savvy. After all, there seems to be nothing more you can do than lash out on the internet: Reports of police not taking such incidents seriously have been documented extensively, time and again.
When everything is said and done, the situation isn't as grim it may seem on the face of things: We've progressed from keeping issues closeted, to actually coming out in the open and voicing our opinions. The next step to put such offenders in their place is a reality that will happen soon too: Let the optimism inside not die so soon.
Has Technology Made The Country Any Safer For Women?
This Women's Day we look back what technology has to offer to make India and the world a better place to be in.
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