There are quite a number mobile apps that try to connect people with security agencies in order to get help when they need it. But most of these apps were developed by regular citizens and as such, there is always a looming doubt about their efficacy in connecting users to first responders and actually getting help.
The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) launched the NPF Rescue Me – an app that directly creates a link between people and the force. Instead of calling the phone numbers of security agencies in situations that require being discreet, help can now be obtained through the mobile app.
Security challenges are among the most pressing issues Nigerians face daily and no effort can be too much in the quest to help people connect with security officials when they need them the most.
As at the time of this review, the app already has 5,000 downloads in the Playstore and has been updated to the version 1.0.8. To use it, you can download it on the Playstore or the Appstore and register.
What to know when registering
I had a slightly different experience registering to use this app than I have had on other apps and this is because of the number of questions that you are required to answer before an account is created for you.
Details such as your blood type, hospital, HMO number, emergency contact, address and other personal information will be requested. Some of the information is prerequisite while others are not. Details like the HMO number and hospital may not be filled, however, contact information has to be supplied.
The app also requires permission to access your location. If you deny permission or allow it to access location only while the app is running, the app will close, and you have to relaunch it. However, it will keep asking until you grant the permission it needs to access your location all the time.
Uncomfortable with the idea of granting an NPF app access to my location all the time, I denied it access and allowed it to get location only while I am using the app and it crashed. It, however, worked properly after I had granted the necessary permission to access location all the time.
You can now report a crime or a security agent and be heard
From the dashboard, you can either report a crime, request for an ambulance for a covid-19 emergency, report an officer, call a security official and search for officials close to you.
When I selected the ‘report a crime‘ option, it asked me to share the nature of the crime, location details and to give a brief report of the crime. I was given the option to also add evidence which includes pictures, audio and video recordings to support my claim before I clicked submit. The category of crimes that you can report include Murder, Medical emergency, Rape, Robbery, Kidnapping, Domestic threat, Theft/burglary and Violence.
When I wanted to report a police officer, the app similarly asked me for my location, the reason I am reporting the officer, report of what happened and add evidence before submitting.
There is no option for live recording or capturing a picture on the app yet. Whatever pieces of evidence you want to submit must have been shot or recorded on your phone before you launch the app and try to upload it to your report.
Additionally, I found that you can search for a list of officers around you by clicking the arrow icon at the top of the app. It searches and lists out the police officers that you can reach out to. I clicked on one of them and was presented with an option to either call or chat with the officer. From the app, I was able to initiate a chat with the DCO of Ojodu in Lagos, although I have not gotten a response as at the time of this review. If I had an emergency, the app would definitely have been of no use.
A faster way to access the help provided by the app is to call. The officers listed by the search feature have numbers attached that you can call by tapping ‘call’ on the app. You will be charged the standard fees for calling by your network service provider.
Helplines are available on the dashboard from the ‘telephone’ icon. I found 5 helplines that I was able to call on my phone after selecting one of them on the app.
You can make a request for an ambulance if you need one or someone around you does. The emergency can be covid-19 but it is not limited to that.
‘I’m concerned about my data privacy’- user review
As mentioned previously, security is one of the more constant cravings of the average Nigerian. As such, it isn’t surprising that many people have jumped on the app and have talked about their experiences while using it.
A user, Wisdom Joseph, said: the app needs facial recognition features to help in scanning and identifying subjects when reporting a crime or harassment.
“This App needs a facial recognition camera so it can be able to scan the face of anybody or police officer harassing you and then bring the person or officer details as well as police number out for tracing.”
It is not clear yet to what extent the app can access the database of all police officers in the country, as this will be required for facial scanning to identify an officer from the app. Hopefully, this will come in later updates to the app if it effectively serves its purpose.
Sharing concerns on how quickly help can be obtained through the app, Hamzat Ibrahim said, “This is a great initiative as we move forward to tackle our security challenges in the country. We hope that our police officers respond well and swiftly to our call.”
Olotu Oloche expressed reservations about how responsive the app is even while commending its look.
“I’m reserving one-star till I experience how effective response is from this app. Gave four stars because the interface looks great, easy to register and looks PROMISING! Get this right, for once, Nigeria Police!”
Privacy concerns are also an issue among many who have tried out the app. I mentioned earlier how the app requires a number of permissions before it can run. Some of the permissions include access to the gallery, location, and phone; in order to make calls and read messages.
The OTP sent during registration is sent as SMS and the NPF app asks the user whether it should auto-input the OTP from messages. All of these indicate that the app can access messages, pictures, videos and audio recordings on a user’s phone and Nigerians are having a hard time trusting the police force with the access the app has to their personal data.
A user, Adesoji feels the app poses privacy concerns. He said, “It’s a welcomed development, kudos to them. Can security experts please take a look at the screenshots and clarify the safety of my information. The OTP was sent to the provided email but it was requesting to auto-fill from messages.”
Green Timothy said in a Playstore review, “This is a good initiative for NPF. But it needs to access location, camera, phone (to make a call and to access contact list) and camera(to record video). This makes the app intrusive to users privacy. It’s like giving out the pin code of your ATM card to criminals.”
Despite the many reservations that Nigerians have about the NPF app, the features it provides are necessary. However, it will only make a difference if the officers act effectively each time a request for help is received through the app. It will also record success if people do not send prank requests for help through the app just for the purpose of testing if it works.
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