Kenyan inventors create ‘panic button’ app to help save lives

According to IPSOS, crime in Nairobi is twice the national average. Incidences of muggings, carjackings and other crimes are not uncommon in Kenya’s capital city.

One unfortunate victim was developer and entrepreneur Edwin Inganji. He was attacked by a group of men who stole his laptop. “I felt hopeless and I couldn’t get any help. Luckily, they just took my stuff,” Inganji describes.

After this incident, Inganji, and his two friends James Chege and Marvin Makau — also developers, sat down and considered what they could do to help make people safer. They thought: what if people in need of help could, at the flick of a wrist, alert emergency services?

They put ideas into action and created “Usalama,” a mobile app that sends a distress signal when a user shakes their phone three times alerting emergency services of their location, as well as their next of kin, and every “Usalama” user within 200m.

The success of “Usalama” relies, in part, on the willingness of police, ambulance services and other emergency providers to sign up to the app — a pursuit which has proved difficult, they claim, especially on the part of government. In light of this, the team has sought to broaden “Usalama” — Swahili for security — to connect users themselves and generate awareness about how to be safe.

Question: Do you think this is a better solution than the traditional methods of contacting emergency services? Do we need to adapt technology now or is it too soon?

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