The Nigerian police has launched a crime-reporting app, but tech illiteracy is the problem

NPF Rescue Me

The Nigerian police has just launched a crime-reporting mobile application called NPF Rescue Me, which will also provide intervention for health emergencies. The app is available on both Android and iOS-enabled devices (I have tried it, it’s there) and hopes to assist the police in its bid to manage and curtail crime nationwide.

We will just pretend that the app name NPF Rescue Me isn’t much on the nose. After downloading it and putting all the required personal information, health profile and emergency contacts, the next step was for me to report a crime. Then it dawned on me that having access to such an app, in the first place, is a privilege. While the creation of the app is long overdue and appears to consolidate on state-wide police emergency numbers, there are pre-existing barriers and pitfalls that could hamper its utility.

Widespread tech illiteracy is one challenge. Lagos, for example, for all of its lofty ambitions as a tech haven (startups, investments, hubs etc), has a heterogenous population and some fall in the bracket of illiteracy. And illiteracy and poverty are linked, especially in rural communities whose sole concern is to survive. Crime, over there, has been normalised and has become something they have to live with.

Those living in slums and infrastructure-deprived areas can’t suddenly make the leap towards accessing such an app because it lies on the fringes of their immediate preferences. This same reasoning applies to the North, where illiteracy has been a tool weaponised by politicians to keep the people subservient and amenable. Rates of kidnapping and banditry have skyrocketed in recent years in the region, and poverty is prevalent.

Nigeria isn’t a country that takes tech education and literacy seriously, public schools are under-funded and badly managed while tertiary institutions also lack the facilities. Crime happens in cities as well as inner neighbourhoods, settlements and local communities hard to navigate, and government’s approach to addressing crime should be holistic.

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