Building Walkability With Data

UN-Habitat together with SafetiPin (urban safety app) have initiated a project focused on walkability and gender in Nairobi, Delhi and Bogota. The initiative empowers women and girls as agents of change in making their communities safer, and equips local authorities with baseline data. The project also analyses the complex perceptions of safety which influence trip patterns for women and girls.

Hilary Murphy, Nairobi, Kenya

Urbanisation can provide opportunities for many to build their homes and lives sustainably, with enhanced livelihood prospects in an environment of innovation and creativity. However, these urban benefits are also met with challenges of inequalities, vulnerabilities and crime. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by barriers to autonomous movement in the form of street crime, sexual violence, harassment and intimidation. While there is a broad understanding that women and girls are typically more reliant on non-motorised transport infrastructure such as safe walkways, well lit communities and the presence of human scale surveillance – the participation of women in the process of making their communities safer is often weak, and their voice often unrepresented in the planning and budgetary spending decisions at city level which affect their sense of safety.
Empowering women and girls as agents of change for safer commuting environments, particularly while moving on foot, is an important part of the required social innovation necessary for transforming dangerous communities. Similarly, the generation of accurate data on which to base supportive policies and responsive security networks is an important foundation to safer cities.
Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the public use of smart technologies. Globally, the increase in affordable smart phones has made internet accessible to a wide audience. The rapidly decreasing cost of smart phones and wide-spread use of mobile communications is putting these devices into the hands of both rich and poor and across gender and age. In 2012, official data put the number of mobile connections in Delhi at 42.5 million - more than two phones per person. Mobile subscriptions in Kenya outnumber fixed lines 107:1, equating to a mobile penetration rate of 74 per cent of the population. Colombia has the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market according to analysts. The Colombian smartphone market has grown 278 percent in the period from January 2012 to January 2013.
The practice of undertaking Safety Audits has been undertaken around the world by many governments, NGOs and organizations seeking to impact safety for some time. These audits have been used to identify problem areas and bring about change through advocacy. Building on the Safety Audit concept, ‘SafetiPin’ is a mobile app that has been designed to collect and share information about factors which enforce safety, and the lack of it in cities. SafetiPin began in Indian Cities - statistical modelling in Delhi using SafetiPin has shown that it is possible to establish the ‘feeling’ of safety, based on the scores of individual parameters collected by SafetPin in a manner similar to crowd sourcing.
Building on the achievements of SafetiPin in Indian cities, Safetipin has partnered with UN-Habitat’s Safer Cities Programme to work in the three cities of Nairobi, Bogota and Delhi. The project has a central focus on walkability at community/neighborhood level, women and youth. The project intends to first establish whether the ‘feeling’ of safety can be determined in the same way outside of India using local men and women to engage in audits in selected parts of the city, crosschecking the results for correlation between a sense of safety and other parameters. Secondly, the project aims to generate data at a scale that is meaningful at a city level. This is supported by an activity of collecting extensive visual data using vehicle based cameras to photograph the city at night. The images will be codified and translated into data points on the live Safetipin map. This map and the data within will be made available broadly to other actors working in the area of safer cities within the city, establishing local ownership and uptake of the results.
The UN-Habitat and SafetiPin partnership project has begun activities as of early 2015 and the activities will run for approximately 18 months.


Hilary Murphy, Nairobi, Kenya

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