As conditions in Kabul continue to worsen due to the Taliban takeover, residents of the Afghan capital have been struggling to get accurate real-time information about what’s happening in the city.
Three and a half years ago, for instance, Sara Wahedi had a near-miss experience when a bomb exploded not far from her. In the aftermath, with the streets blocked and broken glass everywhere, she was found that there’s wasn’t any information available about what had happened, when the roads would reopen, or whether it was safe to go outside.
“It led me to wonder why an alert system didn’t exist in a country like Afghanistan, which has been crippled by instability over the last two decades, and with so much money going into social development and community development, how there wasn’t something that people could turn to to find verified, real-time information about security and city services,” she said.
Seeing a need for a solution, Wahedi decided to put together a team and develop Ehtesab—an app that relies on crowdsourced information from citizens to send real-time alerts during a crisis, be it a bomb attack, a power outage, or even a traffic jam.
“We designed it to be as simple to use as possible because it’s a crisis app,” Wahedi says. When opening the app, users can tap a button to send a report if they’re witnessing a problem. There’s also a map showing current alerts, and an option for push notifications, reports Fast Company. The alerts are sent to everyone in Kabul, without tracking their location.
As Wahedi explains, anyone living in the capital can use the app as an everyday tool. For instance, someone heading to work or school can “see okay, this area where I’m heading today is not safe, or there has been an explosion, or this area doesn’t have electricity.” Despite the chaos in the country, the state-run electricity department still provides updates when the power comes on, crucial information that can be included on Ehtesab.
In the future, Wahedi plans to expand the tool to other parts of Afghanistan, and potentially even to countries in Africa and South America, which could have their own local versions of the app.
If you’re wondering what you can do to help people in Afghanistan, here’s a list of organizations offering direct support and aid that you can donate to.