While governments around the world struggle to address the needs of the 4 million refugees who have fled Syria since the start of that country’s civil war in 2011, hackers across Europe are marshaling their own resources to help.
The smartphone has emerged as a vital tool in refugees’ flight from the chaos in Syria. Over 90 percent of refugees have access to smartphones, and the team of Belgians want to leverage those phones to connect immigrants with local aid organizations that can help them resettle.
Using APIs to connect with mapping and geolocation software from Esri and IBM Watson‘s natural language processing tools, 30-year-old Dirk Moors and his four twenty-something friends Frederic Berghmans, Roberto Dries, Ian Droogmans and Lander van Breda have created an app that poses questions to refugees about their status and connects them with the relevant aid organization.
“One of the biggest issues refugees have is a lack of information, and 90 percent of them have access to a smartphone,” says Moors. “We thought, if that’s true, why don’t we leverage that?”
Safe Haven’s goal is to help ease the burden for refugees who may not know where to go for help and for the understaffed, overworked aid organizations who often can’t devote the necessary time to reach out to the communities most need their help.
“The issue is the lack of information,” says Moors. “There’s no easy way to communicate with aid organizations.”
Here’s a video of the app in action: