The president himself once described Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in South Africa as the second pandemic plaguing the country, and it doesn't seem to be getting better.
READ MORE | GBV: A far deadlier pandemic in our society
This is why Thabo Nonkenge, together with his partners, have co-developed SOSS – a smart device app that aims to curb the rise of GBV cases by giving victims and those at risk a tool to ask for help.
Speaking to TRUELOVE, Nonkenge - who has been trained as an architect but has businesses in the data science, enterprise software and digital innovation industry - says that he saw a need for the community to be active and cause interference by taking action against these heinous crimes.
“The idea of SOSS is born out of our sincere belief that people are inherently good and that we can always rely on ubuntu in fighting societal ills,” he tells us.
“I come from a family dominated by women, I am the only son, and I have been exposed to the general culture of violence in our society. My exposure to technology then proved useful in solving this problem with 6 years’ experience in the start-up space,” he adds.
The app, which is available on Google Play store and on the Apple App store, is free to download. However, once downloaded, users will have the option to choose what type of plan they want to proceed with.
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“Once on your phone it has two account options: The Subscriber account (free account) and Protector Account (paid account R25 minimum). We have accounts and packages which start from R25 for a single account and up to R240 for the largest family and friends where one can pay for up to 8 loved ones,” Nonkenge explained.
“The crowd-share safety platform feature in the app connects the user, a volunteer network of nearby responders and protectors. The network of responders and protectors is made up of not only the user’s personalised list of emergency contacts, but also sends an SOS call for help to nearby emergency response services and to community members who have signed up to be active allies and protectors.
The SOS call is silent and only alerts responders and protectors which is safe to use without alerting the perpetrator, at the long press of a button of your choice help can be on the way.
The Emergency signals are received as a push notification by both the Protector and Subscriber account along with a live location and the victim’s profile picture. The same emergency signal is received by private security companies within 500m of the victim’s phone and responders receive in-app notifications on who else has responded to the signal as well as the private security companies so they are sure to stay clear of danger."
SOSS has further partnered with #OneAfrica.org and #notinmyname International, an advocacy organisation against gender-based violence and rape culture.
“We believe that it is central to our collective effort to uplift, empower and protect communities, which is why we are proud of this partnership. SOSS will improve the lives of others through community participation, using reliable technology as a weapon to fight this GBV scourge,” said Lulama Sanyaka, head of programs at #notinmyname international.
The app, which has been in the works for over a year finally launched on Monday, 8 March. It also stores data that can be used as evidence once a case has been opened.