Turkey hackathon develops solutions for refugee challenges

News Hour:

From 3-5 February, 36 refugee and Turkish computer programmers and graphic designers participated in Turkey’s first ever coding marathon (Hackathon) to focus on easing the challenges faced by Syrian refugees in the country.

The event was organized by IOM and InnoCampus, a non-profit project providing innovation and entrepreneurship experiences. IOM mentors provided guidance to Turkish and Syrian participants about refugee-related problems in Turkey.

The teams participating in the Hackathon pinpointed four areas for potential innovation: a social media app to help doctors and patients overcome language barriers; a touch-screen, self-service kiosk providing information about basic services available for Syrians living in Turkey; a social media app for refugees to self-identify their needs and find possible solutions to their problems; and a scanner that provides oral instructions to assist people in accurately and quickly sending documents required for obtaining humanitarian assistance.

These ideas will be further developed at the Entrepreneurship Accelerator Training Program, which will take place from 17 February – 10 May 2017 at the InnoCampus in Gaziantep.

With over 3.1 million people seeking international protection within its borders, Turkey hosts the largest refugee population in the world. The vast majority lives outside of refugee camps, inside the host community.

Challenges facing the refugee population include a language barrier between Turkish host communities and Arabic-speaking refugees; lack of access to basic services, including education, health care or legal advice due to distance or lack of knowledge; and insufficient resources due to the prolonged conflict.

“The Hackathon encouraged innovation and social inclusion, as host country nationals and refugees themselves came together to find sustainable solutions to very real problems they face,” said Lado Gvilava, IOM Turkey Chief of Mission.

“Nowadays, when you have a question about something, you go on social media. It’s all about social media. People don’t want to look at government websites. Now, people teach each other,” said Basel, a Syrian participant.

Mridha Shihab Mahmud is a writer, content editor and photojournalist. He works as a staff reporter at News Hour. He is also involved in humanitarian works through a trust called Safety Assistance For Emergencies (SAFE). Mridha also works as film director. His passion is photography. He is the chief respondent person in Mymensingh Film & Photography Society. Besides professional attachment, he loves graphics designing, painting, digital art and social networking.
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