Through crowdsourcing, the SafeUp app helps solo travelers feel more comfortable all over the world.
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SOlo female trips have increased in recent years. In the background, and sometimes in the foreground, is the persistent security discourse. In the Solo Female Travelers Facebook group, which has more than 130,000 members, safety concerns are as prevalent as selfies and referral requests. But as with so many things, there is an app for it.
In 2020, Tel Aviv-based entrepreneur Neta Schreiber created SafeUp, a free app that uses a crowdsourcing community to alleviate some of the anxieties women face when traveling alone. Last year, the app expanded to the United States (New York, San Francisco, Boston, and most recently Miami) and now serves approximately 100,000 women in 39 countries, including Australia, the ‘Iceland, Spain, Canada and France. “We have based [the app] on the nature of women and on the solidarity of women, ”explains Schreiber, who co-founded SafeUp with entrepreneur Tal Zohar. “We didn’t invent anything; women protected each other and always helped each other. We have just encouraged it in the modern world.
SafeUp is easy to use. If a woman finds herself in a situation where she feels uncomfortable – an overnight walk to the hotel or home office – she can open the app and see a map showing ‘guardians’ ( title of SafeUp for its 10,000 auxiliary volunteers) in its area, available for phone or video calls: To be connected, all he has to do is press the button call the tutor button. Guardians can also come in person as a walking buddy or help call the police. (If a traveler is in imminent danger, SafeUp encourages them to call the police first.) For added safety, a traveler’s location is only shared with local guardians when they ask for help. .
To allow tutors to reach members quickly, SafeUp has partnered with Lime to offer free scooter rides in certain cities. The app also employs a rescue team that responds to calls 24/7 if a local guardian is not available. “I think it is important for travelers to know that even if there is no caretaker within walking distance, there is always someone who will respond – this is something we can promise” , says Schreiber. “You won’t be alone.”
To join the community, a new member enters their phone number, name, gender (options are Female and Other) and a profile picture, then the app uses a video and question process to verify their identity. Members of the non-binary and genderqueer community are allowed to apply to join SafeUp; men are not, although that might change. By SafeUp website: “We believe that people are an essential part of creating a safer world. In the future, we plan to explore ways for men to contribute to SafeUp (with the express permission and consent of our users).
Google Maps, Apple and Facebook offer location sharing and specialized security applications like BSafe and the US State Department Smart traveler app provide this mechanism as well as additional emergency resources. But what sets SafeUp apart are the real-time responses from volunteers.
All tutors must be trained and be over 18 years old. Shai Bachar, 25, is a SafeUp tutor in New York. She discovered the app on social media and thought it was an effective way to help and be helped, especially since she felt that location sharing alone wasn’t is not always useful. “Sometimes when you travel it’s the middle of the night in your home country,” she says, noting that your loved ones might not be awake to answer your call.
Since joining SafeUp a year ago, Bashar has been busy with requests. “I often get calls around 11pm, or calls from all over the world when it’s dark at my destination,” she says. “It could be a student going to her dorm, a mother in an empty mall parking lot, a tourist.” Bashar herself has used SafeUp as a traveler and says her job as a tutor is to help where she can. “I feel like I’m helping women with something that I myself would need help with,” she says. “Supporting someone when they call you might seem like a little insignificant, but sometimes it is enough to help them feel safe. “
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