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Integrated technology support system for tackling violence against women


Project description

Gendering a smart community through a user-centred technology for tackling violence against women

This project, “Gendering a smart community through a user-centred technology for tackling violence against women”, engages with the smart community agenda in the context of women’s safety and gender-based violence (GBV), by connecting and empowering gender organisations with a curated digital platform to transform the quality of life for women and girls in significant and positive ways in Sierra Leone.

Gender-based violence is identified as a major challenge undermining development efforts and deterring many women and girls from maintaining the physical and mental wellbeing they need to participate equitably in inclusive community and livelihood development.

GBV, particularly sexual harassment and violence, is widespread in Sierra Leone. Data shows that almost 70 percent of women reported experiencing violence in their lifetime. The adverse health, social and psychological consequences of GBV have a serious impact on not only women and girls’ livelihood, but the broader national development agenda. Manual evidence gathering and referral systems along with the lack of a well-coordinated multisectoral collaboration, communication and data management systems impede effective response to GBV, resource mobilisation and women's access to timely services, learning materials and support.

New and innovative strategies involving the use of appropriate technologies to address these challenges are needed. Digital technologies are recognised as essential drivers for tackling gender-based violence, with significant potential to strengthen the decision-making process, enhance the support care and provide effective routes for GBV survivors’ safety.

The aim of this project is to take advantage of digital technologies to develop a user-centred integrated technology support system (ITSS) to assist efforts to combat GBV through improving evidence gathering, communication, data sharing and coordination between the healthcare, police, and support service providers.

The project emerges from the needs expressed by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and other stakeholders during a co-development workshop held in 2020, for creating a pathway for strengthening GBV response and identifying the potential for leveraging innovative digital tools to help improve multi-sectoral collaboration, data gathering and knowledge sharing in the response and prevention of GBV. Thus, it has the potential to contribute to policy and promote economic development and better health and livelihood outcomes needed for active women and girls’ engagement in inclusive and smart communities.

The project collaboratively brings together an interdisciplinary team (including web and mobile technologies, human-computer interactions, technology for development and social development) and potential users to design the ITSS.

Project activities will include:

  • an exploratory phase to understand the socio-technical contexts, challenges, technology needs and facilitators; 
  • analysis phase to develop the requirements needed for building ITSS;
  • conceptual engineering design phase to develop a prototype of ITSS; and
  • feasibility analysis phase to assess the usability and potential for learning, scalability and sustainability of the application.

Our approach will lay the foundations for strong partnerships and provide critical learning for collaborative technology-designed solutions in developing countries.


Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Steven Sam - Dr Steven Sam joined the Department of Computer Science at Brunel University London (UK) as a Global Challenge Research Fellow in June 2019. He obtained a PhD in communication, digital technologies and social change from the University of Queensland (Australia), where he received the UQ Outstanding Higher Degree by Research Theses Dean’s Award in 2016. Prior to joining Brunel, Steven was a Research and Engagement Officer and Sessional Academic at the Centre for Communication and Social Change, the University of Queensland. Steven’s expertise is in the areas of communication, human computer interaction, digital technology design and social innovation.  His work involves two strands: The first strand focuses on technology (e.g.  mobile phones, mobile applications, computing, internet and AI) adoption and impact on organisations, people and society. The second strand involves using, ethnography, visual methods and human-centred design approaches to find innovative solutions to complex and challenging problems affecting vulnerable groups and communities in areas such as health, education, agriculture and governance. Here, Steven’s work is informed by two questions: What problems affect vulnerable groups and what communication and technology tools can we use to address the problems?