HARASSmap: A Bold Use of Technology for Social Change

Bari Samad's picture

I have recently been looking at examples of effective digital activism and tools that enable everyday activists to leverage the power of technology to create positive change in local communities.

One of the best examples I have seen of digital in action for social change comes from Egypt -- and to my pleasant surprise there was even a Net2 connection!

HARASSmap is a web and mobile-based system for reporting incidents of sexual harassment in Egypt. Using technologies from Net2 alumni Ushahidi and FrontlineSMS, the tool gives women in Egypt a way to anonymously report incidences of sexual harassment in real time, using a simple text message from their mobile phone.

Combining quick and easy mobile phone reports facilitated by FrontlineSMS, and then mapping these reports on the web via the Ushahidi engine, the whole system is designed to act as an advocacy, prevention, and response tool.

What I really like about the HARASSmap project is that it addresses a social problem in two critical ways:

  1. Immediate -- It is a real-time way for women to report harassment incidents. With data accumulating over time, the map can also be effectively used as a prevention tool. For example, to see and avoid high incident areas and via the 10 available harassment categories, to see what types of incidents are prevalent and where.
  2. Long-term -- By putting accountability and transparency at the core of system it creates a movement for long-term behavioral and social change. The system effectively highlights the severity and pervasiveness of the problem in Egyptian society and therefore seeks to create better living conditions for women.

HARASSmap is deceptively simple and easy to use, yet the system captures key data about the complexity of the social problem it seeks to address.

Did I mention that since the underlying technologies used are open-source, they can be adopted and deployed elsewhere? Check out the Bijoya project in Bangladesh.

All in all, HARASSmap is an impressive use of digital tools to create a better society in Egypt and elsewhere. This, friends, is digital activism in action. #nicelydone.