Cape Town – AS cases of gender-based violence (GBV) continue to rise, more digital solutions are being sought.
Police reported a dramatic increase of GBV incidents, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown, leading to identification of certain areas as hotspots.
Non-profit Silicon Cape and the US Embassy have turned to technology to find solutions to prevent and combat GBV.
Zimkhita Buwa, director of Silicon Cape, said a hackathon would be held to bring together software developers, IT professionals, civil society organisations, academics and those with expertise on GBV to find solutions.
“We are trying to create a dialogue and co-create solutions. We strongly believe that tech will help change the world we live in,” said Buwa.
Official reports showed that within the first week of the lockdown, police received 2 320 complaints of GBV with only 148 related charges laid.
The statistics represented a 37% increase from the week before the start of the lockdown.
“We need a collaboration to address GBV. We also need to scale the digital solutions so we can reach more people who have access to tech, even in rural areas,” said Lianne du Toit who was voted as one of Fast Company’s most creative people in 2016 and had a long association with Silicon Cape.
Du Toit said skills and knowledge sharing would help with solutions.
The virtual hackathon, scheduled to take place October 3 and 4 would be followed by a bootcamp from October 5 to 9 comprising lunchtime talks where experts would explore ways of bringing solutions to life.
The hackathon and bootcamp form part of a year-long initiative by the US Embassy in the country called Hackathons for South Africa: Digital Solutions for Real World Challenges with one of the focus areas being GBV.
Last year’s winner, Thomas Fihla developed an app called Uphi, (where are you?) aimed at fighting GBV.
The app has an emergency alert button that lets “trustees”, those within one’s circle of friends when in an unsafe situation.
“You can do this without unlocking the phone. There are more features we are adding to it, taking into consideration privacy and safety regulations,” said Fihla.
The other feature would monitor the tone pitch to alert others.
“We have been connected with the World Church Council in Switzerland that wants to help us expand our services throughout the continent.” Fihla said his team was also focusing on receiving feedback from those who had engaged with the app including the non-profit organisations, activists and gender-based violence experts.
“We build technology to solve social ills. And we don’t want people to feel helpless, we want to empower them in some way,” Fihla added.
Silicon Cape Chairperson, Sumarie Roodt added: “Tech has the power to change lives, so why shouldn’t it be applied to solving one of the biggest challenges plaguing South Africa?”
Buwa said Silicon Cape had supported and was continuing to support start-ups to connect them with opportunities globally and was in talks with the provincial government in providing some IT solutions.
To join the virtual hackathon and the bootcamp see buildcommunityhackathons.co.za.