India to install panic button on mobile phones to protect women

Updated 2018-01-10 15:03:09

A panic button on mobile phones will be tested in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which has the highest rate of crimes against women in the country.

Maneka Gandhi, the local minister for women and child development, announced the pilot project on January 2.

A designated key on basic phones or an app on smartphones will be used as the panic button to protect women, Quartz reported.

Once pressed, a call will be made to emergency number 112 and text messages will be sent out to police authorities in the area.

A group of roughly 25 volunteers near the victim will also be alerted through messages, local officials said.

The project can be traced back to April 2016, when the department of telecommunication of India announced the plan to put a panic button on every handset sold in the country from January 2017, and by 2018, all mobile phone to be GPS-enabled.

However, the project might be hard to roll out since only a small portion of women possess mobile phones in India.

According to GSMA, a worldwide mobile operators network, women are 36 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man in India, and only 12 percent of women are using mobile phones in the hinterlands.

False alerts could also be a barrier for the project to protect its targets based on response to an an SOS-alert app released by the Delhi Police in January 2015. Among the 3,000 alerts that police received in the first hour of launch, only 45 were real, Quartz reported.

Indian Railways also installed panic buttons in the ladies' compartments on a train in Mumbai in May 2016 and it received about 1,000 false alerts in just one month, said local officials.

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