VODACOM Speaks Out about GBV

During the Covid-19 lockdown, there was an alarming increase in GBV. Recognising the need for action, the Vodacom Foundation recently announced the launch of a cutting-edge application to fight GBV in South Africa, which coincides with the annual United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism campaign.

“According to statistics by our gender-based command centre, there has been a visible increase in GBV-related calls since the start of the lockdown in March this year. Between March and the 3rd of December, the centre received 153 442 calls, of which 5 051 were GBV-related,” says Takalani Netshitenzhe, Vodacom South Africa’s external affairs director. In comparison, the centre received only 393 GBV-related calls between January and March this year.

Netshitenzhe says the Bright Sky app is part of Vodacom’s vision to use technology to respond to some of the social issues plaguing South Africa. The company’s involvement in the fight against GBV goes back to 2014, when it partnered with government. Since then, Netshitenzhe says the command centre’s innovative use of technology has enabled it to identify GBV hotspots.

“The command centre allows us to monitor national trends. For example, most calls are from Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape,” she says. Being empowered with these statistics enables the government to employ and deploy law enforcement officers and social workers in the right areas.

Bright Sky was designed primarily to support GBV-prevention initiatives, and interfaces with the gender-based command centre to provide response and victim support. The app provides help and information for anyone who might be in an abusive relationship, or for those concerned about someone they know. It is available in English, isiZulu and Sesotho. “The app is mainly an online awareness tool. It is free to download on both iOS and Android devices. The app can be used on a mobile phone or other smart devices,” says Netshitenzhe.

She acknowledges that because not all South Africans have access to a smartphone, the company plans to roll out a USSD version. It will also zero-rate the app so that users do not incur any data costs when using it. “The teams are already working on importing. We will finalise the design of the USSD version by International Women’s Month in March 2021,” she says.