Could tech help address the global migrant challenge?

By , 12 January 2017 at 14:03
Could tech help address the global migrant challenge?

Could tech help address the global migrant challenge?

By , 12 January 2017 at 14:03

Nobody would migrate a machine this callously…

The whys and wherefores of migration are not my place to comment on, thanks goodness. According to UN estimates, around 60 million people worldwide are currently in search of refuge.

The only observation I’d make, as an IT industry commentator, is that nobody would transfer a server with the same lack of preparation or monitoring. If it is to be done, surely management information is needed. Here are three apps which, in their own way, set out to do this.

Ankommen is a free app designed to help refugees get information about Germany. This entails the immediate needs, such as the asylum procedure and information about employment. There language courses available and advice from people who have been living in Germany for some time. It’s available in five languages, carries no adverts and can be used offline.

Better information can’t hurt because 28,000 people have died trying to enter Europe since 2000.

The Migrants’ Files project was launched in 2013 by a group of European journalists who joined forces to accurately calculate and report the deaths of emigrants to Europe. They want exhaustive and up-to-date information in order to account for the human cost accurately and report the scale of the problem across the continent.

Working alongside United for Intercultural Action and Fortress Europe The Migrants’ Files team has created a database of information on migrant deaths. Additional input comes from PULS, a project run by the University of Helsinki, Finland.

The team tracks fatalities by monitoring real-time news on asylum seekers, migration and human trafficking activities in and around Europe. Data is logged according to name, gender and nationality. Every incident is recorded with its date, latitude, longitude, number of dead and/or missing as well as the cause. The locations of the tragedies are pinned on an interactive map, with a heatmap to highlight hotspots. A second map uses data from The Migrants’ Files to allow users to examine a timeline of migrant deaths across Europe dating back to 2000.

The work is ongoing and contributions are invited by emailing the address on the web site or via Twitter, using the hashtag #MigrantsFiles. Those that sign via the web site also get a quarterly news with updates on the migrant situation.


In the UK, a group of volunteer techies (ranging from journalists to developers to marketing managers) has got together to try to provide these vulnerable people – and those that would help them – better information. This initiative is about to the ‘tech community’ using their know-how and the huge reach of social media to ease the suffering of those fleeing from war, famine and persecution.

While founder Mike Butcher acknowledges there’s no magical instant solution to the issue and no app will resolve a crisis, technology can at least help to relieve suffering.

If communications knowhow can help re-unite lost families and spread awareness of human rights, it could do much to make life less painful.

Over 700 people have signed up for conferences throughout the year, Together they aim to develop ideas using technology and the first fruits of these collaborations are starting to appear. In Britain, £5,000 was raised by Techfugees to bring WiFi to the refugee camp in Calais, France. This enabled displaced people to contact embassies, loved ones and charities. They have also set up so that anyone to donate their old mobile device to a refugee who might need it.

In a further development, Techfugees has collaborated with the Digital Humanitarian Network and the Canadian ‘Peace Geeks’, which has helped the drive to raise awareness to gain momentum.

Techfugees would like more people to contribute their skills and ideas to ease the suffering of millions across the planet. You don’t have to be a developer, or even any sort of IT expert. Anyone interested can help financially with the Techfugees GoFundMe programme.

Meanwhile Techfugees wants contributors, specialists and developers to contribute their spare time and knowledge. Your efforts will be channeled into a hack-a-thon, a which will marshall hundreds of volunteers to develop platforms, apps and solutions to world problems.

There’s an information gap, but these volunteers are measuring, monitoring and mentoring.

(Image credit: Screen capture of The Migrant Files courtesy Techfugees)

previous article

Could texting bring peace of mind to humanity?

Could texting bring peace of mind to humanity?
next article

Projects can fail, tech evolves, but transformation is sustainable

Projects can fail, tech evolves, but transformation is sustainable