Bangladesh rape reporting app seeks to stop crime before it starts

A student holds a black flag to protest against an alleged gang-rape and torturing of a woman in the southern district of Noakhali during a demonstration in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on October 6, 2020. (AFP/File)
A student holds a black flag to protest against an alleged gang-rape and torturing of a woman in the southern district of Noakhali during a demonstration in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on October 6, 2020. (AFP/File)
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Updated 11 January 2022

Bangladesh rape reporting app seeks to stop crime before it starts

Bangladesh rape reporting app seeks to stop crime before it starts
  • Bachao (Save Me) app connects rescue volunteers via GPS to users who press the panic button
  • Sexual abuse incidents in Bangladesh are on the rise despite the introduction of capital punishment for rapists

DHAKA: A new app funded by the brother of a rape victim aims to reduce sexual violence against women in Bangladesh, where despite increased punishment the prevalence of the crime has been on the rise.

At least 1,247 women were raped in Bangladesh, while 286 faced rape attempts in 2021, according to Bangladeshi human rights group Ain O Salish Kendra. Forty-six of the victims died following rape, while nine committed suicide.

Ain O Salish Kendra’s 2021 statistics showed a rise of 25 percent in rape cases from the year before. The increase was observed despite the introduction of capital punishment for rapists, which the government passed in October 2020 following nationwide protests sparked by a series of high-profile rape cases that year.

The numbers are just the tip of the iceberg, as rights activists say most women do not report rape, fearing victim-blaming and stigmatization and not believing they would get justice. According to Human Rights Watch, less than 1 percent of reported perpetrators in Bangladesh are convicted.

The new app, Bachao (Save Me), aims to stop the crime before it happens. The app’s founder, Jalal Ahmed Mirza, hopes it will be able to reduce the prevalence of rape at least by half.

“My sister was a rape victim, and she suffers from trauma to date. My mother died due to this shock. As a last wish, my mother asked me to do something to protect the girls of the country,” he told Arab News.

“Our target is to halve the rape rate per day from 17 to eight.”

Mirza, a 45-year-old IT professional, founded Bachao as a non-profit initiative but would need support to be able to expand it to the level of unions — the smallest local government units in the country.

“We have spent around $100,000 from our own funds,” he said. “We must work in 4,500 unions of the country, and this requires support from the government, the private sector, NGOs and the public.”

Since its launch in October, Bachao has already been downloaded by 160,000 smartphone users from Google’s Play Store.

When in danger, a user can press the panic button to call volunteers who would track down her location through GPS. If no rescue arrives within 20 minutes, Bachao’s monitoring team would share the victim’s coordinates with the nearest police station.

The app’s data shows over 170 successful interventions have been conducted by volunteers in the past three months.

One of them involved Monica Begum, a 25-year-old garment factory worker in Dhaka, who pressed the panic button in October.

“After regular office hours, when everyone left the factory, Begum was asked by her superior to stay. At that moment, she sensed something was wrong and felt an imminent danger. She pressed the Bachao alert button, and her colleagues were alerted and intervened,” Bachao’s support team member Zeba Fariha said.

Another rescue, in November, involved 16-year-old Sultana Akter, a 10th grader in Matuail, some 7 km from the outskirts of Dhaka.

She clicked the panic button when she was followed by a group of men on her way home in the evening.

“Within a few minutes, her relatives rushed to the spot following the GPS location and rescued her,” Fariha said.

While police were involved in three incidents reported via the Bachao app, a spokesman of the police headquarters in Dhaka said they should be involved in interventions from the very beginning to avoid possible abuse.

“There are chances that some innocent people might be framed,” Additional Inspector-General Mohammed Kamruzzaman told Arab News. “People shouldn’t be abusive while using this type of initiative.”

But women activists are of a different view. 

“Sometimes we also notice that people make prank calls to the emergency national helpline. But we don’t consider stopping the helpline’s services,” renowned human rights advocate Khushi Kabir told Arab News.

“There might be some chances of abuse whereby innocent people may fall victim. Police may investigate such incidents.”

She added that Bachao should expand its coverage by introducing shortcodes to be available for all mobile phones, not just for smartphone users.

“People’s intervention before the crime takes place is a good initiative,” Kabir said. “In most cases, women become victims of rape and violence by people they know, sometimes relatives within the family, and it mostly happens in victim’s locality. So, this Bachao app would help women in case of emergency.”

Salma Ali, president of the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association, said the app should be promoted.

“Different rights groups in the country should be engaged so that the nation can build a spontaneous movement over violence against women,” she told Arab News. “The government should also extend its support to make the app more popular.”


Protect role of ethics in AI future, UAE minister tells Davos

Protect role of ethics in AI future, UAE minister tells Davos
Updated 25 May 2022

Protect role of ethics in AI future, UAE minister tells Davos

Protect role of ethics in AI future, UAE minister tells Davos
  • As a leading country in artificial intelligence, the UAE is working on integrating AI in all sectors of the economy and society

LONDON: The future of the artificial intelligence sector could be threatened by ignorance in decision-making processes, the UAE minister for AI, digital economy and remote work applications has said.

Speaking at a panel session titled “Responsible AI for Societal Gains” at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, Omar Sultan Al-Olama said: “We (in the UAE) have signed a strategic agreement with the University of Oxford to send government officials, CTOs and directors to school for an eight-month course to understand what the ethics of AI are, understand good uses of AI and the value of AI.”

He added: “People who are going to be pressing the button on whether to deploy AI or not are people who usually have no idea what ethics mean, what the repercussions are and what the long term implications of these technologies are.”

The session was moderated by Kriss Deiglmeier, chief social impact officer at Splunk.

As a leading country in artificial intelligence, the UAE is working on integrating AI in all sectors of the economy and society.

Al-Olama gave the example of the UAE’s successful vaccine rollout to show how the proper use of AI could produce positive results.

He said that in order to develop AI solutions to problems and improve quality of life, technology should be deployed more often in government “to tailor the government service and make it more proactive rather than reactive.”

Al-Olama stressed the need to form an incentive alignment between all governments to solve problems. “Let’s align the incentives. If we do that, we’re going to have people looking at actual AI solutions that change the world for everyone.”

The panel also featured global AI experts, including Stuart Russell, professor of computer science in UC Berkeley; Joanna Shields, CEO of BenevolentAI; and Vilas Dhar, president and trustee of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation.


WEF panel discusses what the metaverse is and how it can be regulated

WEF panel discusses what the metaverse is and how it can be regulated
Updated 25 May 2022

WEF panel discusses what the metaverse is and how it can be regulated

WEF panel discusses what the metaverse is and how it can be regulated
  • Three-dimensional, borderless world holds as many opportunities as challenges, Davos forum hears
  • For Meta’s chief product officer Chris Cox, the metaverse is the “next chapter, the next evolution of the internet except it’s the part where it gets less flat”

DAVOS: The metaverse is the new buzzword, but what is it?

Experts at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos convened in a panel titled “Shaping a Shared Future: Making the Metaverse” to discuss what the metaverse is, how to build it and, most importantly, how to regulate it.

For Meta’s chief product officer Chris Cox, the metaverse is the “next chapter, the next evolution of the internet except it’s the part where it gets less flat.” It is a way of describing the internet’s transition into a three-dimensional environment, he said.

On the other hand, “For me, the metaverse was this idea of a place that was somehow simulated on computers that were connected by the internet,” said Philip Rosedale co-founder of High Fidelity and founder of Second Life, a metaverse that allows people to create avatars of themselves and lead a “second life” in the virtual world.

Much of the metaverse’s perception seems to be centered around virtual reality. But, truly, the metaverse is “a seamless integration of your digital and physical worlds,” said Peggy Johnson, CEO of Magic Leap.

That sentiment was echoed by Omar Sultan Al-Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, Office of the Prime Minister of the UAE.

“We can (now) imagine a new paradigm between the virtual and the physical, which is augmented reality and create a bridge that we could never have imagined in the past,” he said.

The metaverse’s ambition to be a borderless, unifying space for people around the world makes it particularly challenging to regulate, given that every country has its own rules.

“There are different types of risks that we need to pay attention to,” said Al-Olama.

Some of the risks relate to financial transactions or scams that exist between the physical and virtual worlds, while others are more extreme, such as violence in the metaverse, which can be even more terrifying than violent content that currently exists in the digital space.

Al-Olama added that there needs to be a nongovernmental body, such as the UN, that sets standards.

Cox agreed, saying: “We’re already managing, as are most internet companies, the reality that you want companies to have their own community standards, but (we) also recognize that that exists in tension with national laws and in some cases, as we’re beginning to see, state laws.”

With most things in life, be it work or university, people receive some sort of orientation. However, that has never been the case with the internet, Al-Olama said.

“There needs to be a way for us to orient people” on how to use the internet, and this should be part of a child’s basic education in every school in the world, he said.

“Certain business models made sense for the internet and social media. For the metaverse, we need to actually take them to the next level.”


MBC Group, BitOasis partner to launch crypto education across MENA

MBC Group, BitOasis partner to launch crypto education across MENA
Updated 25 May 2022

MBC Group, BitOasis partner to launch crypto education across MENA

MBC Group, BitOasis partner to launch crypto education across MENA
  • UAE-based BitOasis has become the region’s largest crypto trading platform, recording over $4 billion in trading volume to date
  • As part of the partnership, BitOasis will launch region-wide crypto education initiatives that will be featured across MBC Group’s portfolio of TV channels and digital platforms

DUBAI: MBC Group has signed a strategic partnership with crypto-asset trading platform and virtual asset service provider BitOasis to drive customer awareness and adoption.

“We’re witnessing the fast speed at which our region is embracing and adopting the blockchain and Web 3 technologies. Seeing as how cryptocurrencies are essential to this ecosystem, we see this partnership as a natural progression as we usher in this new era,” said Fadel Zahreddine, group director of emerging media at MBC Group.

UAE-based BitOasis has become the region’s largest crypto trading platform, recording over $4 billion in trading volume to date. As part of the partnership, BitOasis will launch region-wide crypto education initiatives that will be featured across MBC Group’s portfolio of TV channels and digital platforms.

The MENAT region’s cryptocurrency market grew by 1500 percent between July 2020 and June 2021, according to The Chainalysis 2021 Geography of Cryptocurrency Report. 

“In countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, crypto assets are steadily going mainstream due to early adoption by tech-savvy Millennial and Gen Z retail investors, but a massive majority across the region still do not have a good understanding of this emerging asset class,” explained Ola Doudin, CEO and co-founder of BitOasis.

For example, 18 percent of Saudi residents are currently trading in crypto while 21 percent in the UAE intend to invest in it in the next year, according to a YouGov survey.

Doudin said that the company has an “obligation” to address the gap by ramping up efforts “to ensure consumers are aware and educated about investing in crypto across our region whilst offering the simplest and most accessible way to invest.”

“Our goal is to bridge the crypto knowledge gap, and our partnership with MBC will help us realize this goal,” said Srinu Chowhan, vice president of marketing and growth at BitOasis.

He added: “BitOasis’s crypto awareness initiatives will help demystify blockchain and crypto assets, and MBC’s media platforms will play a key role in ensuring this educational content reaches across the region.”  


TikTok partners with INJAZ for its Future Jobs Initiative

TikTok partners with INJAZ for its Future Jobs Initiative
Updated 25 May 2022

TikTok partners with INJAZ for its Future Jobs Initiative

TikTok partners with INJAZ for its Future Jobs Initiative
  • Program aims to prepare young people for jobs in emerging industries

DUBAI: TikTok has partnered with INJAZ, the non-profit organization for education and training in workforce readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship across the Arab world.

The partnership, which was launched today, aims to raise awareness of the Future Jobs Initiative program. The collaboration will see TikTok leverage its community to empower the region’s youth by preparing them for future jobs in the fields of artificial intelligence, product development, green economy, and people and culture, among others.

“At TikTok, we aim to help communities thrive and inspire the new generation of entrepreneurs and changemakers to be active and pursue their dreams,” said Talal Al-Fayez, head of public policy, TikTok, Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

“Through our partnership with INJAZ, we are able to do so in a tangible way by bringing more awareness to the jobs of the future, encouraging youth to explore these growing and lucrative fields,” he added.

The short-form video platform has brought together experts from companies such as Microsoft, McKinsey and MetLife to create a series of informative and easily digestible videos that will be available on TikTok.

These experts will share their personal journeys and insights, aiming to inspire young people to pursue future jobs that are currently growing in demand.

Fifty-one percent of MENA youth feel that they lack the work experience necessary to find employment. Yet, by 2040, an estimated 127 million young Arabs are expected to join the MENA workforce, according to a recent study conducted in collaboration with Oliver Wyman, said Akef Al-Aqrabawi, president and CEO, INJAZ Al-Arab.

The non-profit is “committed to enabling the next generation of entrepreneurs,” and the partnership with TikTok will enable INJAZ “to connect directly with today’s youth, providing them with the knowledge needed to navigate their futures,” he added.


BBC News channel apologizes after calling Manchester United ‘rubbish’

BBC News channel apologizes after calling Manchester United ‘rubbish’
Updated 25 May 2022

BBC News channel apologizes after calling Manchester United ‘rubbish’

BBC News channel apologizes after calling Manchester United ‘rubbish’

DUBAI: The BBC has issued an apology after a message appeared on the news channel’s ticker that read “Manchester United are rubbish.”

The text appeared at the bottom of the screen during a tennis update on Tuesday morning. Later the same day, BBC News presenter Annita McVeigh apologized for the error.

“I hope that Manchester United fans weren’t offended by it,” McVeigh said. She explained that the error occurred because someone behind the scenes was learning how to use the ticker.

“They were just writing random things, not in earnest,” she added.

That does appear to be the case as the ticker also featured the text “Weather rain everywhere.”

The incident and the apology have gone viral on social media, with many users commenting on how the BBC only apologized to the fans and not to the club itself.