The software was programmed last weekend, as part of a ‘Refugee Hack Vienna’ event which saw 25 volunteers get together to see what they could create. “It’s amazing what people who have never met each other before can make in a short space of time,” one of the organisers, Helene Pattermann said.
Smartphones have been an important lifeline for refugees in their long journey to other countries.
"This gives us completely new possibilities to help and to connect with people," Pattermann said. “We also wanted to help create an atmosphere of welcome - so that people can see that others are willing to help,” she added.
The Hack event, which was run as a friendly competition, saw an app called Where 2 Help selected as the winner. It’s designed to help coordinate people who wish to volunteer, as there are often too many or too few helpers at a particular location. “Lots of people said they have felt frustrated about this,” Pattermann said. Volunteers can now use the app to check what location needs their help the most.
Another app, called Refugees Connect, functions “like a walkie-talkie” and puts refugees directly in touch with aid workers. They can ask questions such as "Where can I get a warm jacket?", "Who wants to go for a coffee?" or "What is the situation at the border?"
The Open Knowledge app is designed to make facts and figures about the refugee crisis widely available, and another app called Bridges enables users to chat in different languages.
“Now we have to see if refugees will actually use our apps,” Pattermann said.
Similar hackathons are planned in other cities - such as Berlin, where 100 volunteers are meeting on October 24th and 25th to create new software to help refugees.