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Vodacom launches free app to fight gender-based violence in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG - The Vodacom Foundation has launched a free to download application designed to aid in the fight against gender-based violence (GBV).

As South Africans retreated inside their homes due to the lockdown measures introduced by government to curb the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, reports showed an alarming increase in the number of GBV cases.

SA President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared this scourge of violence as the 'second pandemic'.

The launch of the Bright Sky app coincides with the United Nations 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, an annual international campaign that kicks off on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until Human Rights Day on December 10. This year’s campaign will take place under UN’s 2020 global theme: "Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!"

Takalani Netshitenzhe, external affairs director for Vodacom South Africa, said: "Bright Sky is part of our vision to use our core capability - technology - to respond to some of the societal challenges plaguing our society in this milieu. Digital technologies have become a positive enabler in this GBV crisis that we are facing. The app is part of our prevention strategy to strengthen prevention through awareness and education and will also augment the response by the law enforcement agencies through some of its functionalities."

Bright Sky SA app is free to download on both iOS and Android devices on the App Store and Google Play Store respectively. The app can be used on a mobile phone and/or other smart device.

It provides support and information for anyone who may be in an abusive relationship, or for those concerned about someone they know.

It is available in three official languages: English, IsiZulu and SeSotho.

Vodacom’s GBV programs focus on prevention, response and victim empowerment. Response is through the GBV Command Centre in Pretoria and victim support is through digital literacy we provide in the shelters for victims and survivors of GBV.

Bright Sky SA allows users to assess whether they or someone they know is in an abusive relationship by completing a risk assessment questionnaire in a bid to keep them safe. Bright Sky’s features include a short questionnaire to help users identify different forms of abuse and the types of support available. It gives the user information about GBV, the different forms of GBV, and various case studies.

Using geolocation, the app provides information on support services available in South Africa, including a directory of police stations, hospitals and NGOs across the country.

By educating people about the forms of domestic abuse, and providing advice on what to do, Bright Sky serves as a resource for friends and family with loved ones suffering from such abuse, ensuring that they are better empowered to help. The app does not share anyone’s personal details and ensures the complete privacy of its users.

Gender-based violence in South Africa is unprecedented. According to the latest GBV research, one in four women will experience violence by men and are five times more likely to be killed.

The economic cost to fight gender-based violence in South Africa is between R28 billion (US$1.8 billion) and R42.4 billion (US$2.8 billion) a year which includes the social services, shelter and health care needed to respond effectively to the crisis.

According to the GSMA 2020 Report, smartphone adoption continues to rise rapidly in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, reaching 50% of total connections in 2020, as cheaper devices have become available.

The second phase of the Bright Sky app will introduce certain features via our USSD platform to cater for people without smart devices. Vodacom will also zero-rate the app, so that users do not incur any data costs when using it.

"Fighting GBV requires a coordinated approach and partnership between government, civil society and business. This is how Vodacom comes into the picture, bringing technology into the partnership to help society," concluded Netshitenzhe.

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