"Welcome!" made refugee Dara new friends

Last year a group of Swedish entrepreneurs had a great idea: How about using mobile technology to bring refugees and locals together? They developed the app «Welcome!», a success in Sweden that is now making an entrance in Norway.

Man holding a mobile phone, looking at it together with a smiling woman.

Photo: Welcome!.

Mobile technology can really do fantastic things, and Telia has previously written about  apps helping blind people "to see" and technological aids that give children with long term illnesses the chance to participate in various activitiesWe have now been impressed by the app "Welcome!", developed to create contact between refugees and locals. In fact, we were so fascinated, that we just had to test the app ourselves.

Technology for a better society

Both refugees and locals can use "Welcome!" to post information. As a refugee, you might want to write that you are looking for someone to play football with, or that you want to find someone you could practice your Norwegian with. It is also possible to share language events and other relevant activities for refugees. People who want to help can publish what they have to offer - like a coffee partner or a stroll through the city.

Screenshot, Welcome! app

The app has several features. Both refugees and locals can post information. Photo: Screen shot from Welcome!. 

Found football friends

We tested the app and quickly linked up with Dara Ibrahim. He is 26, and came to Norway from Syria 16 months ago. In Syria, Dara studied chemistry, and he hopes to be able to continue his studies soon. He also speaks three languages; English, Arabic and Kurdish. As a Kurd in Syria, Dara soon had to flee when war broke out in his home country. After a long journey through Europe, all on his own, he ended up in Trøndelag before moving to Oslo in December 2016.

Dara says being new and alone in a new country can be very difficult. He shies away from getting in touch with new people because the debate around refugees is so inflamed. He is afraid of being turned down, which is also one of the main reasons he uses Welcome! so much.

"With Welcome! I know I will get in touch with people who respect me, and that makes me feel safer," Dara tells us.

Dara has met several people through Welcome!. Some of them have invited him for dinner, and he has found a group of people to play football with.

"Welcome! helped  me find a group in Oslo who meet regularly to play football. I love football, so that was perfect," Dara says.

Dara Ibrahim (26). Photo: Telia, at Kulturhuset, Oslo.

Dara Ibrahim (26). Photo: Telia, at Kulturhuset in Oslo.

Swedish success

The app was developed by a group of Swedish entrepreneurs, among them Emma Rosman. They started work in the autumn of 2015, when they saw how refugees were struggling to fit in. Public programmes tried to solve the issue, but things were taking far too long, according to Rosman. Mobile technology became the solution, with an app that easily links people.

"We know that many refugees use their mobile phones for most things, so this should be a crucial platform for integration efforts. The local programmes struggle under systems that are far too complex, while an app like Welcome! links people directly with no official go-between," she explains. 

Help from norway

Randi Dorthea Aamodt Espegren, Tankesmien Skaperkraft

Welcome! was launched in Norway in January, and has already caught many people's attention.  The think tank Skaperkraft helped with the Norwegian launch. Randi Espegren, one of the initiators, got in touch with the app developers as soon as she saw it last year.

"Welcome! is a genius app for getting to know new people, and a genius way to link locals and refugees. Several thousand Norwegians have downloaded the app already, and so far the feedback has been good," Espegren says.

Randi Dorthea Aamodt Espegren, Tankesmien Skaperkraft. Photo: Private.

Mobile technology bringing people together

Mobile technology has created new relations and brought people together for many years. The «Welcome!» app is proof of how modern mobile technology can be used to link people who don't know each other. Barriers are being broken. In recent years, mobile use has been given more space to breath, and since Telia launched  Roam Like Home in 2016 there have been no roaming costs across the EU/EEA. Good coverage is also important when linking people, and Telia are proud to be offering the best 4G coverage in Norway.

The app is free, and it's financed by several voluntary contributors. Download it from Apple App Store here and from Google Play Store here.

 

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