To digitally empower women and ensure their safety, the Indian government has mandated that all mobile phones to be sold in the country from Jan. 1, 2017 should have a panic button enabling users to make emergency call.
Hours after announcing the decision, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad looks worried. Such a move will raise the costs of mobile handsets. Prasad says he will discuss the pricing issue with the industry.
“I will talk to them. India is a big market. For your information, I have discussed this with everyone. Manufactures who understand this have given their support. My expectation is that they will render their support in social justice and women security,” Prasad told reporters.
Feature phone makers will, of course, back him but the price of the handset may go up by Rs 200 ($3) after adding the panic button feature in the phone. This price rise will be of concern for low-income groups.
From 2018, in-built GPS navigation system will be mandatory for all phones to spot the location in the event of harassment or distress.
The GPS component will cost Rs 67 ($1) per handset and the relevant software will raise the overall cost to between Rs260 ($3.9) and Rs400 ($6), according to Indian Cellular Association (ICA).
Despite growing competition and technological challenges, the Indian mobile industry is thriving. Asia Unhedged feels bodies like ICA should look beyond company interests and do their bit for social good which, in this case, is safety of people, especially women.
The government has a point in insisting on panic button. Anyone in distress or being harassed can press the button which will automatically alert the local police station and the prescribed number of a family member.
A panic button is better than an app because a woman in distress will have only a second or two left to send out the distress message before the attacker grabs her mobile phone.