Parliament Embraces Victoria University Security App Nisaidie

The speaker of Parliament of Uganda has expressed interest in the work Victoria University Kampala students in the faculty of ICT are doing specifically a mobile app that address the security concerns in the country.

Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of Parliament of Uganda, expressed her interest in the works of Victoria University when she visited the University’s stall at the Parliament’s week exhibition.

The speaker asked the University to work with Parliament’s ICT department to see how they can work to together so that the innovation can be use to the country in promoting safety and security in the country.

The creation of the mobile app is premised on the many and increasing crimes that remain unreported due to lack of swift access to security and emergency service providers, Mathew Okema, one of the seven students who designed the app, said in a previous interview with this website.

He explained that Uganda has about 100, 000 emergency service providers but people only know or use the Uganda Police Force. He said the app aims to assist in efficient deployment of emergency services.

“The aim here is to connect mobile phone end user, the person who needs the services, to the service provider. This app creates security awareness.” Okema said, noting that the problem with police is that they don’t have enough resources to investigate in real time.

The app has a simple and user friendly menu since it is made to be used during emergencies, a period a user might not have time to maneuver complicated menus. Its menu consists of categories, account button, chat room button, audio recorder and access to phone camera. Developers are looking into adding video recording option.

“We disabled that camera flash because it would alert the attacker. What we are working on is replacing still photos with a video recording system,” Okema says. It has access to GPS and Google maps.

The app has been made to bring comfort to the user – knowing that at any one time, you can call for help and there are people to have my back – and it improves flexibility – with this app, you don’t have to call service providers, they come to you.

How the app works

For starters, you will need a smartphone operating on an Android OS with internet connectivity. Plans are underway to have the app on other OSs. Download and install the app on your smartphone and create an account using your Gmail email and mobile phone number.

Peter Isiko, another of the app developers, says that your phone and app are verified by sending a verification code on your mobile number. Once you are done with installing and registering, in case of an emergency, you can ‘launch the app by tapping on its icon on your phone menu’.

“When you launch the app, you will see the ‘N’ symbol which we refer to as the panic button. That is exactly what you press in case of an emergency situation,” Peter Isiko, the former Guild President and one of the makers of the app, explains.

“When you click the panic button, you phone will start doing a couple of things including recording audio of whatever is happening in your environment and taking pictures using the front and back cameras instantaneously,” he adds.

The app currently has three categories of emergencies. These are accidents, robbery and fire. “When you click on any of the emergency category, the app will send an SMS to your emergency service provider or contact as you customized the app. Then they can take action,”

One of the major dependencies of the app is that you must have internet connection much as you will and can send an SMS to an offline contact, but to maintain relevance of the app, you must be online, Isiko elaborates.

In an interview on the sidelines of the expo, Okema revealed that the app is constantly registering your GPS location with 80 percent accuracy even when you have switched off your GPS locator.

“When the GPS is switched off, it switches to offline mode that is how offline maps are generated,” says Okema. “Because of good offline Google maps, we have been able to incorporate that in the app. We incorporated the coding of Google maps into out app,” he adds.

“If you shift location, let’s say from Kampala to Mbarara, the app will detect that you are in a new area and advise you to download a map for that area,”

“It waits for the new location to be pinged for more than five minutes – which means that you are going to be in that area for long – then it asks if you should download the map for that area.”

When the audio and photos are recorded, the app keeps them on the phone and cloud because of privacy issues. They are available only in case death happens or when police wants to carry out criminal investigations.

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