The idea for the solution originated from the insight of Sofie Wahlström that there is no way to contact 112, Swedish SOS without calling. SOS is now receiving about 500.000 “pocket dials” every year, just in Sweden. There is almost no way of telling if it were a call from a victim or a pocket dial.
Working with IT strategy and digitalization as well as GDPR in a municipality, with experience from governmental and public sectors Sofie started forming a business plan adjusted to the market to support social issues.
Why it's needed
“Every year, approximately 3,500 deaths related to intimate partner violence occur in the 27 member states (excluding Croatia) of the European Union alone, according to a study from the DAPHNE EU programme.”*
“Based on extensive analysis of available data, the Council of Europe has estimated that the cost of violence against women amounts to an annual total of at least 33 billion euros across the Council’s 47 member States, including the financial burden of intervention, policing, healthcare and other services.”*
“Witnessing domestic violence and growing up in an environment where violence takes place has a harmful effect on children’s behavioral, emotional and mental health and increases the risk of children suffering from post-traumatic stress symptoms, psychosomatic illnesses, attention deficit disorder, and low educational achievement.”*
The initial findings of an EU-wide survey of 42,000 women by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), due to be published in 2014, show that:
- Four out of five women did not turn to any service, such as healthcare, social services, or victim support, following the most serious incidents of violence by people other than their partners.
- Women who sought help were most likely to turn to medical services.
- Two out of five women interviewed were unaware of laws or political initiatives in place to protect them in cases of domestic violence; half were not aware of any preventative laws or initiatives.
- Over three-quarters of women think violence against women is common in their country. -About half of the women interviewed indicated that they had avoided public or private situations because they were afraid they might be physically or sexually assaulted*
The COVID-19 outbreak is severely going to damage the work that has been done on gender equality if we don't take action now. The increase in violence is going up rapidly during isolation due to social and economic and emotional stress. Just in France it went up 30% from lockdown 17 of march. Shelters and support organizations are struggling to have time to answer all the distress calls. And now the reports are coming in from the whole world that this is a growing problem. UN Women is calling it a shadow pandemic. **
Now its more important than ever to digitalize and streamline the help that is given to the citizens of the EU. This is one of many reasons we want to offer the chat system we created free of charge for the support organizations, many of them don't have the resources to buy a system.
Sofie found members of the core team and started working on the solution with the team at Hack the crisis Sweden in April 2020. -Hassan comes in with lots of insights due to his senior role as a full-stack developer for big companies and complex architecture. Always humble and willing to try the boundaries of what we can create. -Philip is the second amazing full-stack with the background from big corporations with a multi-level knowledge of complex systems and programming. Together they have been the perfect match to make back and frontend connections in smart and secure ways. -Elinor with a solid background of UI and UX for help organizations and psychological support apps have the perfect angle for seeing what the user needs and what we need to accomplish to fulfill the user's needs when it comes to design. Always with the end-user in mind and heart. -Dragos is our amazing video creator, supporting BrightAct with stunning visuals and infographics, he started helping us 2 weeks ago during The Global Hack, now getting more and more involved. Together we are BrightAct.
This weekend we focused on finding collaboration and making the film. Also starting on the chat application and planning for next steps. And designing UX/UI for the educational part of the app.
What it does
We are bringing streamlined help to the user. So the user never has to look hard for help again, but receive it. When they need it. When they want it and when they are ready. Within this we want the user to feel and understand that they have full control over their own data. That they can choose how to use it to facilitate what they need and help the world with their statistics.
Our app helps organizations and government and authorities come together to support the victims. A new unique solution to solve the problems with collaboration across borders and overlapping organizations.
Taking care of the need of statistics for research, and prevention strategies for the public sector. Building sustainable communities out of a scalable solution. This is a whole new way of working with the allocation of public resources and volunteer organizations together in one application. Everything gathered, a safety net to fall into.
In the app we are offering:
Chat With support organizations to get personal advice and professional help. As well as anonymous social chat connections with others in a similar situation to build a new network of contacts. To find new friends that can relate to your experience.
Documentation To build legal cases and to have safe storage for important documentation. This is a unique solution to build strong cases in court. And for the victim to start being more thinking about what kinds of violence that they should be aware of.
Education For the user to learn more and form an understanding of their situation. Forms and gamified education with psychological exercises to connect with feelings and self-awareness. With action plans for what they need to do to help themselves and get support from others to change and get out of the situation.
Lawyers Chat and advice from lawyers connected to a database that has known experience in the field of domestic and sexual violence. As well as easily understandable information about legal and juridical routines.
Authorities API and possibilities for users to share documents with police and public prosecution authority. This also makes it possible for the police to look for the occurrence of data in our database if someone is reported as missing to find a possible suspect.
Healthcare Connection with API to journal systems if the user wants to. To allow healthcare professionals to collect data for medical and legal documentation.
Emergency housing Find and contact emergency housing to escape and get out of a dangerous situation and get help faster. Emergency help when it is needed.
How we built it
We have a reusable and modular architecture with open data. It is a mobile app for iPhone and Android. The app is built with security in mind, having a hidden entrance and end to end encryption. The app is built using Flutter in the dart, some kotlin, and some swift. There is a backend built in Java running in a container saving its data to an AWS-dynamodb instance. We are also offering a web interface to support cooperation. The app is conforming to GDPR regulation.
Challenges we ran into
It is a challenge to organize the many help organizations to work together. We need to make a change to help the user in a new more effective way. But we already have many shelters and help organizations joining efforts to make this happen. They are helping us with testing and product development questions.
It's also a challenge to understand how the different legislations about storage and data privacy work in different countries. Here we had to contact legal advice that is used to working globally.
As a team we have never met, just talked online and on the phone. This is challenging in many ways, but since the people are dedicated to finding a solution, things fall into place quite easily.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
That we almost have a finished product after just three weeks. And we are building a strong network of volunteers that want to support the cause, right now after just two days, we have around 20 people investing time and skills into the project pro-bono not including the core team. And we already started collaborations with save the children, non-violence foundation and are getting help from UN women of SF to get the app released in the U.S. This, in just three weeks. It tells us a lot about the need for this app.
We are delivering service, support, and possibilities to save lives. It needs to be seen, in what we do and what we say and how we act. With respect and a strong sense of community. Where differences are welcome and innovation is key.
We are also collaborating with another team from the EU vs Virus called Relove that wanted to contribute to help victims of domestic violence. Instead of competing to help the same victims we instead decided to invite them as a collaboration to join BrightAct. To offer them to reuse our architecture and join us and step in under our umbrella. We made a strategic decision that they start to work on the app we are building as an addition to our app for the victims. An app for the potential/actual abusers to help them handle their feelings. Together we are stronger. We need to live our brand.
Quotes regarding BrightAct
"There is a dire need to stem the global pandemic of domestic violence. Bright Act offers a unique digital platform that both supports and increases the protection of the victims as well as services the societal institution's responsibility to act in the best interest of the victims".
Co-Founder The Non-violence Project Foundation
“This application is a new tool with life-saving qualities, for the victim in a discreet yet simple way to give them options that they only can dream about today. The app also gives them opportunities if or when the process turns into a police matter, and will, with do doubt lead to more verdicts against abusers. The documentation fills an enormous gap in the system today.
I never got healthcare, the violence was never documented and it was one person's word against another's. BrightAct fulfills a need of the individuals subjected to violence that I see a huge need for. Hundreds of women subjected to violence are contacting me to get help and support, the app would help them a lot. BrightAct is an initiative that has been needed for a long time and now, finally, is giving a solution to the people subjected to violence.”
Author and survivor
What we learned
To talk to the decision-makers and authority coordinators instantly to find the right connection to start collaboration fast and efficiently. To document everything thoroughly and have evidential and researched sources.
To collaborate to increase the social impact. To find passionate people to carry this solution from idea to an actual product at an extremely fast pace.
It has been an amazing journey of people contacting us, wanting the solution, and pricing it. In the cases where we get contact with survivors. We always ask them what they needed, what they wish they had when it happened, and how this could have helped them. We are here for the quiet voices that not many hear. The whispers of victims needing help. We need to act now.
What's next for BrightAct
To release the product to the market local in Sweden after evaluation of the Swedish data protection agency. We want to release the beta version within 2-4 weeks. Connecting to eIDAS and BankID.
After that we are going to need funding for legal and cybersecurity experts to advise us for Europe.
We need funding for the storage of the data and implementation and development. We also need to start more collaborations with organizations globally to prepare for an international launch. We already have established contacts in the U.S to make start looking at what we have to do to implement there.
We also need to implement our business plan. Offering a low-cost subscription license for the governments from a monthly to several years contracts. The longer the contract, the more discount.
Our fee is divided into:
- Basic fee, for usage for the governments and municipalities
- Flexible fee, depending on how many residents it is in the area
- Actual fee, for the actual use of the storage and platform
For the countries where the government and organizations don't want to join, we still offer parts of the app for free.
The support is divided into:
- Support by email
- Support by email and phone
Acute and non-acute support
Cost for integration and API
Our largest costs will be personnel, support and storage, and data protection.