Aaron Sonson, co-founder, Stop & Search UK App

Aaron is co-founder of the Stop & Search UK App, a pioneering phone app that keeps track of police stop-and-search incidents, and aims to make them fair and transparent.

Aaron came up with the idea with his friends, Satwant Singh Kenth and Gregory Paczkowski on a course called Apps for Good, run by the non-profit organisation the Centre for Digital Inclusion. The trio was set the challenge of designing an app that would help solve a community problem. They decided to focus on the issue of police use of stop-and-search, something they had all experienced repeatedly.

Police are seven times more likely to use stop-and-search powers against black people than white people, according to a recent report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Discontent with the police, and anger at stop-and-search practices, was a major contributing factor to last summer’s riots in London.

“My friends and I have been stopped in the past, much more when we were younger,” says Sonson, a 25-year old from Tulse Hill, in south London, in a recent interview with the Guardian. The worst thing about the experience, he says, is “the lack of respect and the absence of a genuine reason.”

Aaron says he may have been stopped ten times as a teen. “Those feelings don’t easily go away. They linger and it affects your perception of the police. If something has happened and there is a need to do stop-and-searches, then people being stopped is more understandable; but you should at least show respect and be fair about it.”

The free app was released in April 2013 and has since been downloaded more than 4,000 times on BlackBerry and Android phones. It allows users to check their rights, give feedback about their experiences, and upload the officer’s badge number and that of the stop-and-search slip.

Aaron says the app will bring “more fairness, accountability and transparency to the stop-and-search procedure and be the voice of all innocent people stopped and searched in the UK”. The trio has received encouraging feedback from local people in south London, as well as the Metropolitan Police Service. “It has been really positive from all sides,” says Aaron.

Aaron is driven to realise the potential positive social impact of his invention. The young entrepreneur is also a rap artist and co-founder of an independent music label, R.E.D.House Entertainment. His vision is to make great music and create innovative ways to help different groups of society around the world.

When asked what it means for him to be selected as an Invisible Giant, Aaron said: “Opportunities like these are important in helping me develop as a person, and grow my projects to create a bigger positive impact. I see myself as a young entrepreneur just getting started. It’s a blessing to be linked up with senior leaders, both for the expertise they bring and also for the chance to learn from each other.”

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