'We are getting huge response after releasing the video of the app demo,' he said, observing that the demo came at the same time when people are protesting against rape and are concerned about women’s safety
It was merely an idea by The Tech Academy during mid 2019 to engage its students, mostly aged between 8 years to 16 years, to engage them in social activities by building mobile apps.
The initiative finally resulted in building an app – BhaiThamen – that could potentially help stop sexual assault, harassment, and violence against women.
“The building of this app tells a lot about what these youths are thinking about women’s safety,” said Shams Jaber, founder of The Tech Academy.
“When we asked them to work to find a solution to a social problem through building apps, they chose women’s safety,” he added.
A five member team, four students from an app building group and their teacher 21-year-old teacher Shoaib Mirza, completed a beta version of their app in March this year just before the lockdown was imposed.
A demonstration of the app, revealed in late September, on social media Facebook drew the attention of many.
“One of the members of the group, Zara Choudhury, became the co-founder of the project,” Shams said.
“We are getting huge response after releasing the video of the app demo,” he said, observing that the demo came at the same time when people are protesting against rape and are concerned about women’s safety.
According to Shams, the demo version is not compatible for public use and the team has been working on publishing a final version of the app since the lockdown ended and is expected to complete their task by this month.
They are hoping to trial the app with assistance from NGO or INGOs before releasing it into the public domain.
“We are in talks with some organizations and human right activists for testing the app from mid-November. It will be launched in the market if the results are satisfactory,” the founder of the Tech Academy said.
The developers are also seeking a good partner to ensure the app’s database remains in safe hands. Besides, they are also thinking of approaching law enforcement agencies so that their members can also access the information collected by the app.
The team is also considering holding talks with the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) so that the app can be used even if there is no data connectivity from the mobile operator’s network.
“It would need a collaboration of all to function well. We don’t want to take responsibility for a thing that we cannot manage or is vulnerable. Rather, we would like to hand it over to a safe hand so that it can be sustainable,” he added.
How does the app work?
Explaining the functions of the app to Dhaka Tribune, Shams Jaber said that the apps will work in three ways.
“Firstly, it will give mental strength to a user that she has a way of informing her worries to a dear one,” he said.
A user will use the app before travelling and save her intended destination. The app will have contacts and telephone numbers of the user’s family members and close friends.
If the vehicle she is in goes off-route, the app will send a SMS to her emergency contacts and record her last location.
If the girl feels unsafe at any situation, she can use the app in two manners.
Firstly, when confronted, she would show the suspect the word “Bhai Thamen” which would appear on her mobile screen. The app will instantly take a photo of the suspect.
The location and picture would be tracked immediately in the database if she presses “thamun” on her mobile screen.
The app can also be used in another way. If a user believes that a person near her can cause harm, then she can activate the silent mode where the app will take photos in the background and send the message to her emergency contacts.
“We hope it makes a difference in people's lives and that they know they are not utterly helpless and can speak up against the wrongdoers,” Shams said.