This emergency safety app is big in Soweto – here’s how it works

Business Insider SA
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
  • The Namola app works likes the 911 emergency line does in the United States, without you having to make a phone call and use your airtime. 
  • Some 200,000 South Africans have downloaded it, and 10,000 have requested help.
  • Most emergencies were related to crime, while other incidents included helping women in labour and snake removal.    

An accident alert app is transforming the way many South Africans respond to emergencies, for anything from crime and requesting an ambulance to removing snakes from the house.  

The Namola app works like the 911 number in the US – without you having to make a phone call and use your airtime.

At the touch of a button, users can request assistance from call centre agents who will then, on your behalf, contact public emergency services, such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), local metro police, or fire or ambulances service.

We signed up and put it to the test, and within 30 seconds got a response.

The app is very simple to use. We tapped request assistance, and within 30 seconds got a call back.

The app has helped some 10,000 people to date. More than half of those incidents related to crime and law enforcement, accidents represented 20%, medical emergencies 19% and fires 5%.

Here's how to use it:

“The most frequent single type of request is for an ambulance. Also high on the list are motor vehicle accidents, housebreakings, domestic violence and assault. Every so often, we even get reports of kidnapping, child abduction and cash-in-transit heists,” said Peter Matthaei the CEO of Namola.

Of their 200,000 users, most are in Gauteng (59.5%), followed by 17% in the Western Cape and 9.5% in KZN, with a recent spike in sign-ups from the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.

According to their data, residents in Soweto have made the most of it, requesting assistance more than in any other area.

The app is also going a long way toward giving a voice to exposing gender violence. 

“To date, we have had 255 requests for assistance for domestic violence and 38 cases of rape. We know that the statistics for both of these incidents are alarming in South Africa. Women are becoming aware of Namola, they now have a place to report and get help,” said Matthaei.

And proved to be a lifeline for Lee Woolf, a broadcasting content producer from Johannesburg.  She used the app during a break-in in her house: 

 Namola is free for users and is sponsored by insurance company DialDirect. 

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