Panic button mandatory on mobile phones in India from 2017

In order to provide aid to women against crime and violence, mobile phones in India must include a panic button from the start of next year and satellite based GPS location technology from 2018, as officials try to make the nation safer for women. Ravi Shankar Prasad, minister of Telecommunications Department posted on Twitter that the new rule will be in effect from January 2017.

According to the new rules, the panic button can be a designated button or by pressing the power button quickly 3 times or the number “5” or “9” on a basic phone. Smartphone manufacturers will have to include a new button or feature to send emergency alerts. When pressed, the panic button will send out emergency alerts to the police and the user’s chosen contact numbers.

With about 1 billion mobile phone users, India is one of the world’s fastest growing smartphone markets. There is demand for technology based safety and assistance for women through applications and panic buttons in India, where an average of 4 rapes happen per hour and one of the lowest police to citizen ratios I the world. There are already many mobile applications for women safety but the authorities have a better alternative.

A release by the Indian government’s Press Information Bureau said regulators decided a physical panic button is better than an application, however, because “a woman in distress does not have more than a second or two to send out a distress message as a perpetrator will often reach out to her mobile phone in the event of a physical or sexual assault.”

India currently doesn’t has a centralized nationwide emergency service like “911” for emergency calls through a single emergency response number. Over the next few months, a nationwide emergency number “112” will be introduced, also with the help of GPS, the police will be able to map the location of the women in distress. The Ministry of Women and Child Development have been supporting the implementation of a panic button feature on mobile phones for the past two years. The single emergency response number “112” will replace the currently existing numbers, which are separate for police, fire and medical services (100 for police, 101 for fire department, 102 for medical assistance and others).

Technology is solely meant to make human life better and what better than using it for the security of women,” Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a statement. All the manufacturers will have to abide by the new set of rules to introduce the proposed feature on mobile phones sold in India.

The feature had been first proposed by India’s minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi last year, with Gandhi calling for the introduction of physical panic button on mobile phones as the pressure is increasing on the officials to make the nation a safer place for women.

This new measure taken by the Indian government will make way for easier and quicker assistance to women in distress, empowered by technology.

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