Applications that replace emergency calls: why the people of this country created such a thing

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Designed to prevent sexual violence and police harassment, the apps keep people safe during one of Nigeria’s largest protest movements in decades.

In the absence of a government that can provide effective medical, disaster and security services, Nigerians are increasingly using technology to stay safe – especially when the danger is linked to the government itself.

Applications do not automatically solve the problem of security and emergency situations in Nigeria, but offers types of practical solutions that gain people’s trust.

The repression of the authorities is countered using technology

There are several first responder applications on the market, but applications owned in Nigeria, such as Sety and Aabo – which contain features such as panic buttons for emergency contacts and location-based danger notifications – are currently at the forefront of the movement. , helping protesters stay safe.

In the last two weeks, young Nigerians have taken to the streets to demand an end to the brutality of SARS.

A unit of the Nigerian Police Force founded in 1992 to prevent violent crime, SARS has a notorious and well-documented history of the use of disproportionate, illegal and deadly force against civilians it is meant to protect.

Officers are known to profile members of Lagos’ thriving technological community, usually young men carrying laptops, a sign of the relative wealth the authorities are quick to extort through arbitrary arrests.

After a graphic video of SARS officers dragging people on the street and shooting them went viral in early October, protesters began calling for the dissolution of SARS. Naturally, the revolution also took place online, as the public amplification of the hashtag #EndSARS and massive marches on the city’s main streets across the country inspired solidarity marches in Pretoria, New York, Berlin and London.

About a week later, on October 12, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari agreed to abolish SARS and vowed to reform the police, but protesters remained on the streets and continued to spread their message on social media.

An alternative to the emergency services of the authorities: Aabo

Following these events, Sylva Elendu, a software developer from Nigeria, teamed up with her friend and development colleague Victor Idongesit to create an alternative emergency service that people could trust – and that actually worked.

Called Aabo, it was launched in May and is available on Google Play and the Apple App Store, a crucial access point, given the frequency with which police target those with iPhones.

Aabo users upload emergency contact information to the application. Whenever they are in a crisis, they can press the panic button of the application, which will instantly alert those contacts about their location and the nature of their urgency, whether it is rape, fire or police harassment.

For situations that do not register as an immediate red alert, Aabo also provides a live tracking map, which lets users know how close they are to reported threats or emergencies; a hotspot map showing the number of social injustices reported in a particular area; an emergency log to track alerts sent and received by users; and a recurring verification request.

Elendu and Idongesit declined to say exactly how many users downloaded Aabo, although on Google Play, which shows how often an application was downloaded, more than 1,000 users registered. Apple does not indicate how many downloads an iOS app has.

Alternative to alternative: Sety

About a month after Elendu wrote on Twitter about the profiles he feared he would be subjected to because of his recently twisted positions, Olumide Adetiwa, another software developer who founded Sety, was overwhelmed by news of recurring brutality.

Adetiwa told Rest of World that although his initial plan for Sety was to use AI to build the preventive features of the application, he decided to expand Sety’s scope.

“We have expanded because we face so many forms of danger in this region, from sexual violence to physical and even mental violence,” he said. “It has become imperative to make the application as inclusive as possible and we intend to further expand the capabilities.”

Similar to Aabo, Sety requires users to upload contact information for friends and family so that they can notify them in an emergency, and has a number of warning categories, including car accidents, domestic violence, sexual assault, and police brutality.

But in addition to notifying a user’s personal contacts, Sety also sends alerts to nearby colleagues, creating a community of potential first responders. Adetiwa said that so far, about 12,000 people have downloaded the application.

However, to keep up with the urgent demand created by the protests, his team “worked to adapt each danger request and provide specific actions so that rape and domestic or sexual violence are not treated in the same way as police brutality. “.

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