Sergio Mejía
2016, Paraguay & Bolivia
Calling for help has never been so easy thanks to his app, which sends an alert with just a shake of a smartphone
Telecommunications

Fast, simple and easy: those were Sergio Mejía´s objectives when he began, in 2012, to think about how to make it as easy as possible for people to call for help in emergency scenarios. This young Bolivian had observed a rise in crimes like kidnapping in his city (La Paz). According to data from the Bolivian National Statistics Institute, the reports of human trafficking in La Paz district climbed from 122 in 2012 to 235 in 2014. "It was born of necessity. I began to think about a solution at home, and also for my country", Mejía explains.

The result was Shake4Help, a mobile app that calls for help automatically when shaken. In the face of an eminent threat, the user shakes their smartphone, and this movement will activate the accelerometer and trigger the app to notify a trusted contact. The app´s massive potential and simplicity have led to Mejías inclusion in MIT Technology Review, Spanish Edition´s Innovators Under 35 Paraguay and Bolivia 2016 awards.

In this young innovator´s opinion, the key to his project, which was launched in 2013 and has already reached 7,500 downloads, is how it adapts to the Bolivian reality. Unlike other solutions, Shake4Help can send alerts without a connection to the internet via the mobile network. And to ensure compatibility with different models, Mejía has included alternative trigger movements like repeatedly pressing the on button. The designated emergency contact can also learn the location of the user via SMS with the use of a secret word.

In total, Shake4Help includes 15 types of alerts. To prevent false alarms, the app allows the user to calibrate the speed of the shaking movement which will trigger the alerts and offers a back out option to cancel the alert before sending. Currently the app is only available for Android and is based on a freemium model which Mejía is still in the process of perfecting.

In the words of the IT researcher from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and jury member for the Innovators Under 35 Paraguay and Bolivia 2016 awards, Hugo Alatrista, Mejías project is "very interesting and useful, especially since citizen insecurity has been a growing issue in recent years." According to this expert, "[Shake4Help] has the potential to stand out."

But reaching his goals won´t be easy. "Launching a business in Bolivia is complicated," Mejía laments. This young innovator believes that if he had had "more opportunities on a national scale", such as in taxes and visibility, he could have achieved his current advances two years earlier. His next steps will be to focus on increasing awareness of the app by developing a version for iOS and updating the user interface to meet current standards. He wants to eliminate all possible excuses for not using the app. Mejía defends his project: "Shake4Help can save lives, and starting with one, I think our success is guaranteed,", and he concludes: "Every day we are surprised by how much it can do. We are confident that we can generate social impact on a global scale. Little by little."

Discover all of the winning projects from Innovadores menores de 35 Paraguay y Bolivia 2016.