Touchscreen kiosks are filling the gap left by public telephones in India, providing a vital service to children at risk of being kidnapped or trafficked.
The swift uptake in mobile phones has seen once ubiquitous and oft-used public telephones become increasingly obsolete. In India, these provided a lifeline to children, particularly street children, who could use them to call the tollfree number 1098, managed by non-profit Childline, in times of distress. With many public phones going out of service, this cuts off a crucial way for these children to call for help.
Recognising what was going on, the team at Childline has been working with local telecommunications companies to install touchscreen kiosks that allow children to place emergency calls when needed. Here’s how it works: sensors in the kiosk kick the machine into gear when someone approaches. Children using the kiosk are then prompted to provide details about their situation or are connected to Childline direct.
Childline in particular offers help to children in danger of being trafficked. An estimated 135,000 children are trafficked in India per year and a significant number of them are transported by train. According to data reported by Reuters earlier this year, The Indian Railways “rescued more than 4,000 children who were trafficked, kidnapped or destitute, in each of the past three years”. In light of this, the focus is on placing the kiosks in larger train stations.
Founded in 1996 in Mumbai, Childline now has operations in numerous places across the country and has dealt with 36 million calls since launching. Between early 2015 and early 2016, Childline fielded 9.4 million phone calls. According to Reuters, the organisation expects the kiosks to handle 2.5 million exchanges annually.
To find out more about Childine and the work they do, head to their website.