Women’s safety in public spaces has been a long-standing problem. In 2020, Delhi recorded 10,093 cases of crimes against women as per data by National Crime Records Bureau. Though these numbers have declined significantly compared to 2019, the city still remains unsafe especially for women and other marginalised groups who have less access to safe mobility even in urban spaces. Addressing this issue, Kalpana Viswanath and Ashish Basu created Safetipin, a Gurugram-based social organisation that is working to make public spaces safer and more inclusive.
“In 2013, post the Nirbhaya case, there was a lot of outrage on the issue of public safety, and acts like such were very common. So we thought, why don’t we take the safety audit tool and make it into a mobile application so it can reach a much wider audience,” shares Viswanath.
The power of data
Viswanath and her team ardently believe that the right data can help effect change. Utilising the potential of data, they work with a series of tools, the most prominent one being the My Safetipin application—it can be downloaded for free through both App Store and Play Store. The app gives information about a location based on ‘scorecards’ that have been developed through a safety audit that was conducted on the basis of nine parameters such as lighting, visibility, public transport, etc. My Safetipin uses crowd-sourced information to collect this data, which is shared with other users to help them make informed decisions. It further allows the user to identify nearby safe spots such as markets, hospitals, restaurants, digital mapping of safe routes when travelling from one place to another, and alerts the added emergency contacts in case the user is in a dangerous situation.
Apart from this, Safetipin has also perfected two tools—Safetipin Nite and Safetipin Site—to gather data about the status of mobility and safety of public spaces. The former tool helps generate images of the city to map the street network and key public spaces such as transport mediums, parks, markets, etc., which are later analysed on the basis of a range of parameters such as lighting facilities, security, walkability, availability of public transport among others. Safetipin Site helps generate in-depth qualitative data about public spaces.
Making urban spaces safer
With a presence in 15 countries and several Indian states, Safetipin has played an essential role in helping the government bring various changes in street infrastructure. In 2016, Safetipin’s team identified nearly 7,800 dark spots in the city.
The report they submitted to the Delhi Government urged authorities to form a multi-stakeholder committee to rectify the problem. In 2018, a second round of mapping conducted by Safetipin identified that the dark spots had reduced to about 3,000.
Internationally, as well, their team has worked in tandem with the government in Bogota, Columbia, to strategically lay bicycle tracks that can aid women cycle safely after dark.
Viswanath and her team are now aiming to build a model to make cities gender-friendly. They plan on looking at a range of indicators and work closely with governments, civil society groups, and citizens to reach the most vulnerable sections.