Displaced by civil war? There’s an app for that. Scratch that: There are several dozen apps for that. Which one would you like?
Coding humanity’s way out of crisis has become popular in recent years, pioneered in response to natural disasters. Now the influx of refugees and migrants into Europe is conjuring new frontiers and taking advantage of one of the few upsides to this emergency—the connectivity of these refugees via smartphones, which function as their main lifeline to the wider world.
Earlier this week, for example, Alexander Spermann of the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany told the newspaper Die Welt that a quick way to offer German-language courses to incoming refugees would be through online courses on their smartphones, potentially with tutors connecting via Skype. The German education ministry is already developing two apps for language learning, according to the business weekly WirtschaftsWoche.
Volunteer and private efforts have been even quicker off the mark. InfoAid, an app conceived by a Hungarian couple that updates users in multiple languages on crucial travel details such as border crossings and transport departures, launched in September and has caught on in several southeastern European countries. “Bad government but wonderful people:)” reads one review in the Google Play store, referring to a response by Hungarian officials that has included stranding refugees by closing borders, characterizing refugees and migrants as a threat to Christian values, and allegedly tricking people into taking a train they thought was bound for Austria but that was actually bound for a Hungarian refugee camp. “Thank you Hungarian people for showing us the opposite of what your government is showing us,” continued the review.