Yunga: fighting criminality through digital community engagement.

Burglaries are one of the commonest crimes in Uganda accounting for a large proportion of problems the criminal justice system deals with. Many times, violence is meted to homeowners with fatalities often reported.  

Yunga technologies, a local startup has been working to change this narrative. The company is premised on the understanding that community collaboration plays a vital role in maintaining security in many African settings. The firm developed a low-cost digital rescue device that interconnects households in a neighborhood and links them to the nearest police station.

“Most security systems on the market serve only one client. Yunga on the other hand connects and serves many homes in one neighborhood.” Anatoli Kirigwajjo, the founder of the company said in an interview.

Launched in 2018, the company piloted its rapid response system in the Ntinda Kigowa community and has now extended coverage to areas such as Nansana and Kiwatule serving about 2500 people. Yunga is a Luganda word that means to join or bring together and is appropriate due to the connectivity that the security system relies on. 

How it works

The Yunga device has a panic button that when pressed alerts other users identifying the home being invaded. A simultaneous distress notification is sent to a police station ensuring a combined response effort. For identification purposes, a siren goes off, and a beacon on the home under attack flashes showing first respondents which house has been compromised. 

The system also features a mobile application that can be used to call out for help or form neighborhood chat groups for sharing security updates. 

The application also quickly identifies a neighbor in distress by displaying their name during an in-house break-in. The Yunga device is rechargeable enabling it to remain operational during times of power outages, this is important due to the electricity cutouts that happen periodically. 

The security service can be accessed on both smartphones and analog phones making inclusivity possible for Ugandans who do not own internet-enabled phones. 

Many of the home attacks involve bandits waylaying people outside their homes as they wait for their gates to be opened. Yunga also has a feature that deters that.  Kirigwajjo said a Yunga installation can be made in your car that enables you to press a button while approaching your house so that, someone at home is notified of your arrival and the gate is opened for you. This cuts down on your wait time at the gate thereby reducing the risk of attack.  

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