When Andrea Bharatt was murdered two months after Ashanti Riley was raped and killed, three young men from south Trinidad decided to find a way to protect women from sexual predators.
After a session of brainstorming, they decided to develop an online application that would give passengers immediate information on taxi drivers before they enter any vehicle.
In an interview with Guardian Media, Timothy Edwards, app developer Shawn Beharry and cousins Shakeel and Lyndon Mahabir said they were excited to launch their new app called Go Safe which will offer a database of registered taxi drivers to the travelling public.
Both Andrea and Riley had been attacked and killed by men posing as PH -drivers.
But Edwards said although the Go Safe app will not include PH-drivers, the compilation of T&T’s registered taxi drivers will go a long way in helping people choose reliable and safe taxi drivers.
Asked why PH-drivers were not included, Edwards said it would be difficult to verify the data given by PH-drivers. Taxi drivers on the other hand are already registered and have to provide a certificate of good character before acquiring a taxi badge.
“In light of recent events with Andrea and Ashanti as well as all the women who experienced these violent acts, we felt that we needed a change. Trinidad needs a change and we hope together with public and private sector support, if we stand together we could make this change and take the steps towards a safer tomorrow,” Edwards said.
He noted that they have already received support from six taxi driver associations which comprise about 200 drivers.
“We developed the application because of the increasing crime rates in T&T and we wanted to make a change and do it in a way to help the entire country,” he said.
Explaining how the app works, Shakeel said, “ We are building a database of the registered taxi drivers with profiles of each driver. Passengers can access this database by scanning a QR code on taxis. It will pull up a profile and they will be able to validate and verify the driver before getting into the vehicle.”
He added, “The database will be national and will consist of all registered H drivers that choose to work with us. So far it hasn’t been difficult to get information. We have approached taxi driver associations and got really good responses,” he said.
He also revealed that they were waiting on their legal team to give disclaimers which were needed to approach the taxi drivers for consent.
“Consent is a big issue especially with our panic button function so we need to make sure everything is covered before we start the data collection,” he said.
He said they will be taking photos of the taxi drivers badges, with photo ID, a photograph of the car as well as a certificate of good character from the TTPS,” Lyndon said.
He explained that they have already made contact with Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to get support.
“The app is a demo app and we will begin testing in two weeks and hopefully two weeks after beta testing probably in a month and a half we hope to go live,” Lyndon said. Beta testing is the process of distributing the app for testing to a big audience before launch.
Once the app is launched, Lyndon said it will be available to 10,000 users on launch for free on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.
“People should start to use it by a month and a half. We are excited for this and we know that it will bring about a sense of drafty among the travelling public,” Lyndon said.
He thanked Beharry for spending tireless hours developing the app. He also praised businesswomen Jowelle Dr Souza for assisting.
De Souza said the app was much needed.
“It is a great achievement for these three young men to sit down and bring about something like this. We have been approaching the Ministers the Attorney General, Commissioner Griffith and Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan. Its a great idea and not every day will you see three young men set aside their time to do this.
Taxi drivers who want to register can contact them at 784-8985/ 304-7233