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Disconnected Infrastructures and Violence Against Women: Innovating Digital Technologies in Low-Income Neighbourhoods to Produce Safer Indian Cities

This project takes a rights-based approach to the challenge of how to address violence against women by improving women’s knowledge of and safe access to urban infrastructure in the Indian city.

In urban India, violence against women (VAW) has been continuous and widespread. This highlights the challenge of delivering UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 5 and 11: gender equality and safe, sustainable, inclusive cities. In particular, women in low-income urban neighbourhoods face increased sexual and physical assaults during access to and use of connected infrastructures (eg. water, toilets, transport, walkways), which also highlight the challenge of delivering SDG 6: clean water and sanitation for all. In addition, there is an acute information and skills gap in technology use amongst women in marginalised communities that can limit their access to urban infrastructure.

In this project, the team takes a rights-based approach to addressing these challenges by improving women’s knowledge of and safe access to urban infrastructure in the Indian city. It seeks to understand and map blindspots in urban infrastructure to help address challenges of VAW and improve safety for women in cities. 

The project team is using innovations in digital technology and open-source mapping, co-produced with societal partners, to collect big data on infrastructural blindspots, and deep data on VAW through participatory mapping of infrastructure use.


  • In November 2017, the team held an inception workshop with partners, advisory board and experts on infrastructure, data and violence against women, where we presented our project aims and received expert feedback.
  • In December 2017,  the first face-to-face project team meeting with all members of the team present was held in Delhi, which helped forward plan the fieldwork, analysis and dissemination activities.
  • In  February 2018, the team held its second London workshop ‘Digital infrastructures and (un)Safe Cities’ where it discussed project methodology and very early fieldwork insights, and engaged in discussions with colleagues in academia and civil society to unpack and unpick some of the key concepts and themes of the research.
  • In April 2018, the team held field workshops in Thiruvananthapuram – a stakeholder workshop for policy makers and key stakeholders working in infrastructure and gender empowerment in the city; and a community workshop in our fieldsite with women living in low-income communities.
  • As of October 2018, the team is currently organising a national stakeholder workshop, in conjunction with its Institutional partner Fore School of Management Delhi, to be held in mid-December 2018 in Delhi, India.

In the meantime, the team has engaged in a few outreach activities.

In November 2017, Co-Investigator, Don Slater presented preliminary thoughts from the project to the AGM of the LUCI network (Lighting Urban Communities International, a network of lighting professionals in 73 cities, plus lighting designers and planners). This presentation was part of a conference theme on smart lighting and smart cities, in which the team was able to raise issues of how gender-based violence can be more central to implementing smart city strategies.

On Monday 4 December 2017, the project PI, Ayona Datta, was invited to the #SafetoSpeakOut panel on VAW organised by Oxfam. This event linked up with a co-creation event Oxfam are holding in Lebanon, devising digital solutions to tackle real-world problems in the fight against violence against women.

In January 2018, Datta was mentioned in the Reuters article:  ‘Wi-fi but no Water: Can smart-tech help a city’s poor.‘

On 1 May 2018, Datta was invited as speaker in UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Integration segment in their New York headquarters.  She presented her talk at the session on ‘Resilience decoded – building blocks towards 2030’, which aimed to ‘decode’ or ‘unpack’ the multidimensional concepts of resilience and vulnerabilities and present them at the local, national and regional levels as ways of achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda. Click for Video or for Report

In July 2018, Research Associate Nabeela Ahmed was invited to present initial findings from the project at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE) in Bangalore, India as part of their weekly seminar series.

You can read the project's Disconnected Infrastructures blog  or follow them on Twitter at @infrastruct_VAW

Principal Investigator: Dr Ayona Datta, King's College London

Co-Investigators: Dr Don Slater, London School of Economics and Political Science; Dr Joanne Entwistle, King's College London; Dr Rakhi Tripathi, Fore School of Management, Delhi

Research Associate: Dr Nabeela Ahmed

Institutional Partners: Fore School of Management, India; London School of Economics

Local partners in India: Safetipin, Delhi; Sakhi Women’s Resource Centre, Kerala

Project part of

Cities & Infrastructure

The Cities & Infrastructure Programme funds interdisciplinary research projects that address the challenge of creating and maintaining sustainable and resilient cities, with the aim of informing relevant policies and interventions in developing countries.


We foster international collaboration in the humanities and social sciences, and promote the sharing of international perspectives on global challenges.

Other projects in this programme

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