Sharing my talk at a recent panel discussion organized by Nasscom in Pune.
In the year 2013, there were over 33,000 rapes reported all over the country, and over 70,000 cases of molestation.
These numbers show that the danger to women in India is very real.
There are about 24% of women in the workforce. Ensuring the safety of these women is the highest possible priority for all of us. None of us would like to have a repetition of some of the horrific cases that are etched in our memories with so much of pain.
In the past few years - a 22 year old lady, a BPO employee, was gang-raped and murdered in Pune, by the driver of her company car, and his friend. A software engineer was accosted when she was leaving work, gang-raped and murdered.
So today’s subject is really very relevant. With India developing technology that is used all over the world, having a space program that all of us are really proud of – we should be discussing how our technological prowess can be used to prevent such horrific incidents of crime against women.
I believe that the problem is a complex one, and therefore there is no one solution, rather many different approaches, that need to fit in, like a jigsaw puzzle, ultimately leading to prevention or at least a reduction, in these horrific cases.
While a lot of these products are extremely innovative, but as they are recent developments, their effectiveness is not proven. Of course, as many of them are only supposed to be initiated when the user is in danger, in a way we should be grateful that we haven’t seen them in action.
There is one case, that was widely reported, although it’s related to an automobile accident rather than a crime against women – a Californian woman who was trapped in her car for 17 hours after her car fell into a ravine was rescued thanks to a Find My iPhone app.
She had been thrown from the car and was lying face down. First, the OnStar satellite tracking system on her Chevy Cruze sent out a distress call. The police searched for the car but didn’t find it. Then a tech-savvy police officer asked her family if she had an iPhone, and when he was told that she did, he went to her home and used the Find My iPhone app on her iPad, which gave them an accurate location. Apple's Find My iPhone app locates users with a database of Wi-Fi hotspots, cell phone tower locations, as well as the GPS satellite system, and tracks users over time.
In this story, the police officer managed to guess the password of her iPad, after the 3rd or 4th try! Maybe that means that a divine power must want you to live, over and above technology?
A more powerful product has recently been developed to protect students in college campuses in the US, which works on their smartphones, and in times of distress, sends streaming video, audio and GPS data to professional monitoring centers and the students’ families.
As better connectivity becomes available, such apps will become feasible, and should send a strong message to potential perpetrators of crime – that technology is one step ahead of them.