Vodacom debuts gender-based violence awareness app
Sticking to plans to launch a risk assessment and awareness tool to aid in the fight against gender-based violence in SA, the Vodacom Foundation yesterday unveiled its Bright Sky app.
The app, launched to coincide with the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence campaign, aims to support the prevention pillar of GBV as an awareness tool, said Takalani Netshitenzhe, external affairs director for Vodacom SA, during the online launch.
It also has response features that interface with the police and the gender-based violence command centre (GBVCC), revealed Netshitenzhe.
“Bright Sky is part of our vision to use our core capability – technology – to respond to some of the societal challenges plaguing our society in this milieu,” she says. “Digital technologies have become a positive enabler in this GBV crisis that we are facing. The app is part of our prevention strategy to strengthen prevention through awareness and education, and will also augment the response by the law enforcement agencies through some of its functionalities.”
SA’s rate of GBV-related offences is unprecedented. According to the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, one in four South African women will experience violence by men, and are five times more likely to be killed. A woman is murdered every three hours in the country.
The situation has worsened during the COVID-19-induced national lockdown. President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared this scourge of violence as the ‘second pandemic’.
Furthermore, the economic cost to manage the scourge of GBV in SA is between R28 billion and R42.4 billion a year, which includes social services, shelter and healthcare needed to respond effectively to the crisis.
Netshitenzhe said trends showed a spike in gender violence-related calls during the lockdown. Between January and March this year, the GBVCC reported an average of 5 800 calls per month, of which 131 were GBV calls, she said.
Between the end of March to date, the average number of reported calls had reached 19 000 per month, with an average of 600 per month being GBV calls, she stated.
To put this into context, Netshitenzhe said in 2019, the GBVCC received an average of 7 250 calls per month, and an average of 150 GBV calls per month.
Commenting on the launch of Bright Sky in SA, Netshitenzhe said the app was initially launched by Vodafone UK in 2018.
“In Vodafone, we share technological innovation, so we had to adapt the app to South African social circumstances and stereotypes. In order to adapt the script, we work worked with the NGO Women & Men Against Children Abuse.”
The Bright Sky SA app provides support and information for anyone who may be in an abusive relationship, or for those concerned about someone they know.
It allows users to assess whether they or someone they know is in an abusive relationship by completing a risk assessment questionnaire in a bid to keep them safe.
Bright Sky’s features include a short questionnaire to help users identify different forms of abuse and the types of support available. It gives the user information about GBV, the different forms of GBV, and various case studies.
Using geolocation, the app provides information on support services available in SA, including a directory of police stations, hospitals and NGOs across the country. By educating people about the forms of domestic abuse, and providing advice on what to do, Bright Sky serves as a resource for friends and family with loved ones suffering from such abuse, ensuring they are better empowered to help. The app does not share anyone’s personal details and ensures the complete privacy of its users.
“The app is download free, which means you do not incur costs to download it,” notes Netshitenzhe. “Our technical team is at work to ensure that it is zero-rated in the next few days. This means that if you are a Vodacom subscriber, you will use the app and navigate its links without having to incur data costs.
“The app is currently in three languages, which are Sesotho, IsiZulu and English. It can be updated regularly for additional languages and features.”
Once the app is zero-rated, the team will start working on the USSD-version of the app, she added. “We want to carry content of this app on USSD in order to ensure that people without smartphones can also benefit from its content. We plan to complete its adaptation no later than the international women’s month, which is in March next year.”
Brenda Madumise, advocate and activist against GBV, who was the guest speaker at the launch event, called on everyone to have a copy of the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide National Strategic Plan, to locate oneself in the document and be an engaged citizen.
“Gender-based violence is not going to be resolved and stopped by having an app only. It is not going to be stopped by a few activists. It’s going to require 58 million South Africans to be actively engaged and find themselves in the solution.”
Madumise added: “The app that Vodacom has developed is a step in the right direction; we need as many solutions as we can to assist to stem this violence against women and young girls.
“It’s commendable, it’s a step in the right direction and part of pillar two – around prevention – that you are making your contribution as a company in a country that you operate in to find solutions together with everyone else.”
The Bright Sky SA app is available to download from the App Store and Google Play Store.