Making Melbourne’s streets safer for women

The City of Melbourne has launched an open call to crowd-source innovative solutions to make the city safer following a spate of recent attacks on women.

The city last Thursday opened a competition calling on the community to bring forward home-grown, tech-driven solutions that focus on promoting safe movement around the city for the 920,000 visitors and residents that come to Melbourne each day.

The news comes just weeks after the death of 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe, who, like Eurydice Dixon and Jill Meagher, was fatally attacked in a public space in Melbourne as she made on her way home.

With a string of  female deaths across Australia in recent months and 57 per cent of stranger homicides occurring in a street or open area, council hopes the project will help tackle the violence.

The Open Innovation Challenge, which is running for the second year in a row, is aimed at unearthing solutions from innovators, entrepreneurs and the community to issues affecting the community.

The key theme of safe mobility, unveiled last week, is set to focus on four key areas: public spaces, transport, safety at night and safety around city disruption.

Chair of the City of Melbourne’s Knowledge City portfolio, Councillor Dr Jackie Watts said the project is aimed at tackling anti-social behaviour in public spaces.

“Residents, workers and visitors all converge on our roads and footpaths to experience the vibrant life our city has to offer. The Open Innovation Competition 2019 will explore ideas around what we can do to ensure everyone can travel safely through our city at any hour,” Dr Watts said.

“We seek innovative solutions! We need your creativity! We encourage anyone with a solution or idea about any aspect of ‘safe mobility’ to get involved with the competition. We will help you, with a number of mentoring sessions to refine your ideas, help you incorporate the rich data provided by the City of Melbourne and our partner institutions into your solution and help you pitch your solutions.”

Submissions for the competition are open until 18th April 2019.

Australia’s first all-female rideshare service, Shebah, is just one of a number of projects that are being used as examples to inspire budding entrepreneurs to come forward with solutions to stemming violence against women in public spaces and representatives of the start-up spoke at a panel event last week.

The service, which is available across most Australian cities including Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo Ballarat, Hobart, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coats, Sunshine Coast, Adelaide and Perth, was launched on International Women’s Day in 2017.

It is designed to support the safety and independence of both passengers and drivers.

The open innovation model

The current challenge follows a the successful Open Innovation on Accessibility campaign launched by Council last year, where the first prize of $20,000 was awarded to an app that paired the City of Melbourne’s Open Data with smart assistants to to provide up-to-date information via voice, text and screen readers.

According to a how-to-guide for local government prepared by City of Melbourne, open innovation can provide solutions for local government to improve existing or stimulate new public services, programs and policies.

“An open innovation challenge is a short exercise designed to stimulate new ideas, solutions and perspectives,” the guide says. “It taps into the creativity and expertise of a community, and is based on the premise that the best answer to a problem will often come from outside an organisation, rather than from inside it.”

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