Opinion Piece - Andrew Dunnett has been Director of the Vodafone Foundation in the UK since 2006.
Laura constantly lived in fear of an attack by her ex-partner. She had endured years of violence alone, convinced that she was to blame for her partner’s aggression. After one particularly violent outburst she contacted the police. Soon after, she was handed a new innovation: a specially-adapted device called TecSOS, designed by the Vodafone Foundation to give people like Laura direct and fast access to the Police. She could keep the device close to her at all times, knowing that, if she found herself in a similar situation again it would be simple and discreet to activate.
This technology has transformed the lives of thousands of people like Laura in the UK, as well as in Ireland, Germany, Spain and Portugal – 81,000 in total to date. As well as having the potential to save lives, the device gives people trying to rebuild their lives following an abusive relationship a lifeline to safety and protection in their day-to-day lives.
Previous programmes used by the police gave survivors a fixed panic button in their homes, but this could make the victim feel like a prisoner in their own house. TecSOS, however, is mobile - and small enough that it can be carried in a pocket or bag.
In addition, the global tracking and location capabilities mean that, once activated, police can identify the user, track the location and deploy officers in a matter of minutes. Evaluations have shown an 11% reduction in police response times and, with 1,879 activations in the UK alone since it launched in 2011, the technology is saving lives.
TecSOS was initially developed by the Vodafone Spain Foundation in collaboration with the Spanish Red Cross. The programme was then brought to the UK in 2011, where over 90% of police forces have now adopted the technology as part of their approach to tackling domestic violence.
Working with Thames Valley Partnership we are constantly evaluating and evolving the technology and the TecSOS team work with those impacted by domestic abuse to understand and adapt the service to best fit their needs. Recent technological advancements include more accurate location tracking, which can be delivered at a lower cost. This means that TecSOS can play a small but important role in helping even more survivors to rebuild their lives after an abusive relationship.