LEBANON: Apt Apps For Safety?

NICOLE SABA WRITES – What is the easiest way to stay safe? For Lebanese, the answer has just become clear: mobile app warnings.

Lebanese people have been encompassed by instability for decades. Now, with war across the border in Syria, it has become even harder to envision what obstacles people are going to face. With gunfire, kidnappings, and protests occurring almost daily, violence has become a norm. According to Forbes Magazine, a few entrepreneurs, as well as the Lebanese Armed Forces, have come up with several applications to warn people of conflict heavy areas. Three of these apps stand out as potentially great crime-fighting tools.

One such app, whose name means “cut off” in Arabic, provides continuous updates on protests, major fires, roadblocks, and any signs of armed conflict. The founder of the app, Mohammed Taha, explained that, “I thought the best way to know instantly about the beat on the streets is to allow everyone with a smartphone to contribute and alert others about threatening news happening around them.” More than 800,000 people have downloaded the app since it came out almost a year ago, with some users even posting on social networking sites that it “saves their lives.”

Another important app is called Way to Safety. The Daily Star Newspaper stated that it has not yet been developed. But, the concept, if funding is provided, is one that could save many from danger. Similar to an app used in the U.S. called Shotstopper, MSN News described that it is designed to pinpoint the exact location of gunfire within thirty seconds of a shot, sending alerts to users and law enforcement officers and showing them “the way to safety.”

Lastly, the Financial Times reported that the Lebanese Armed Forces have developed an app, called LAF Shield, based on promoting more direct communication between the army and citizens. The purpose it to allow users to report any security incidents, as well as receive updates regarding these incidents.

Most importantly, as Foreign Policy Magazine explains, kidnappings in Lebanon have been on the rise with the influx of refugees. Therefore, the app allows users to directly communicate “with army personnel in case of kidnap or forced confinement.”

Though these apps seem to lifesavers, will they really work? Lebanon is quite an expensive country and people rarely get what they pay for. The Internet is overpriced and underperforming, so people who rely on Wi-Fi may find these apps difficult to access through their smartphones. Even so, the fact that Lebanese citizens are given the opportunity to help protect their country in nonviolent ways is major plus. It’s clear that the country’s population feels it has faced enough violence and unrest for decades to come.

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