Aim of this project is to use technology to assist Rohingya refugees living in South East Asia during the COVID-19 crisis. More specifically we will use knowledge acquired from previous research and close collaboration with community experts, local NGOs and members of the Rohingya refugee community to design, develop, and deploy a mobile phone app.
The app will act as an educational tool to counter the spread of the COVID19, with messages about prevention, symptoms, and what to do when experiencing symptoms using information available from official channels (e.g. UNHCR, or government's health ministry).
The information presented in this app will have to be translated using the appropriate languages, be as pictorial as possible, and be in audio as well as written format. The app will also provide the locations of free help sites, clinics, and charities who can help the refugees if they are experiencing worrying symptoms or need assistance with food and other supplies.
This project will therefore strengthen support for a particularly vulnerable set of refugees at risk during the pandemic.
It also provides a clear strategy for improved communications for a diverse population. Potential countries that would benefit who are on the DAC list are: Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and other countries in South East Asia, as well as Bangladesh. The welfare of the people in the countries in South East Asia that the UNHCR supports will benefit from being able to help prevent the COVID19 virus spreading, save lives by understanding the symptoms and knowing when to seek help, therefore reducing the burden on front line medical workers. The countries will benefit in that it may help stop or slow down the spread of the COVID19 virus and thus help with the strain on poor health infrastructure.
Previous research in 2019, carried out a series of Participatory Design workshops to explore how Rohingya refugees could be assisted by technology; both early on and long after they arrived in a new country.
Our findings, from that research, which were confirmed and endorsed by the Rohingya community, suggest that new technology concepts aiming to assist them should primarily focus on: safety, social capital, upskilling, and language translation.
Following these findings, a safety oriented mobile phone app was developed called "Help to Connect". The app was evaluated in a workshop with Rohingya refugees, and is currently in an early deployment phase in Penang, Malaysia.
Department of Computer Science (MACS)
Department of Computer Science (MACS) Heriot-Watt University
The Urban Institute (EGIS)
Lead Research Developer