South Africa can be a dangerous place to live in. Statistics released by the SA Police Service in 2019 showed year-on-year increases in the rates of reported violent crimes, including murder, rape, and assault.
Add to this the country’s dismal road safety records, with around 1 million road accidents each year resulting in the deaths of more than 40 people per day, and it’s easy to understand why citizens take extra steps to ensure their safety.
To better protect themselves, South Africans have resorted to using all manner of security measures, including their smartphones.
The fact that these devices are portable and come with the capability to have their locations tracked in real-time make them ideal for monitoring safety.
There are many apps on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store which offer South Africans useful security capabilities, and we’ve highlighted some of the best below.
Likely South Africa’s most well-known personal safety app, Namola improves emergency service response times by using the GPS location on your smartphone.
This eliminates the need to provide detailed information on your exact location to the police and other emergency services.
In an emergency situation, you can merely press and hold the “Request Assistance” button which will send an alert to the Namola control room.
The operator will already have information such as your name and GPS coordinates before giving you a call to confirm details of the incident and dispatch help from Namola Watch and emergency services.
An in-app chat window is also opened for situations in which you are unable to speak.
The app is free to download and use, but also offers an enhanced Namola Plus plan, which links notifications to a wider range of private emergency services and provides customers with an additional mobile tracking device priced at R2,499.
In October, the SA Police Service announced a partnership with Vodacom to release the My SAPS app, which helps facilitate communication between the public and police stations.
This app lets users report crimes anonymously, find their nearest police stations and social service centres, send emergency messages to the police and check on the status of a case number.
The tip-off feature requires that users submit information on an incident and any suspects, in order for SAPS to build a profile of the incident and alleged perpetrator.
Users are then able to add additional details for the incident after being provided with a reference number.
The interface also provides quick access to all of the SA Police Service’s social media platforms.
Life360 shares many of the location tracking features of Namola but does not provide access to emergency services in South Africa.
The app allows you to create a “Private Circle” which syncs your group of family or friends together to let them check on each other’s recent and real-time whereabouts.
Smart notifications let the circle know when a particular member leaves or arrives at destinations. It also informs members if someone’s phone is running low on battery.
The US version of the app comes with additional paid plans that provide emergency response, crash detection, and crime reports.
Another locally-developed project, the Bull Horns Panic Button app is especially useful for neighbourhoods and closely-lit communities.
Users can simply shake or drop their smartphone to send an alert to the closest available responder, who receives the location, phone number, and photo of the user.
The notification is also sent to a control room that manages the response via live responder tracking.
Notifications can also be sent via SMS to the person’s emergency contacts.
The company also offers packages to private security companies, CPFs, and neighbourhood watches to link their clients or residents with their own teams of security personnel.
Find my Friends is another app focused on 24/7 real-time location sharing within personalised circles.
It also supports in-app chat with individuals and groups in your circle, as well as the ability to send alerts in the case of an emergency.
Additionally, the app shows ETAs to the arrival of circle members for certain events and the battery status of connected contacts.
If you do not require 24/7 location tracking or have no need of a standalone safety app, WhatsApp offers a handy feature that lets any user share their location with friends, family or other contacts for a set period of time.
While in the chat menu, click on the paperclip attachment icon and select “Location”. Then, hit the “Share Live Location” option.
You can choose to provide your live GPS location to a contact for 15 minutes, one hour, or eight hours.
This can be helpful if someone plans to drive through a dangerous location and can also eliminate the need for them to provide updates of their progress while they are driving.