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Mobile phone app helps Syrian refugees settle in Turkey


Mobile phone app helps Syrian refugees settle in Turkey

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Millions of Syrians have been forced to leave their war-torn country and many have taken refuge in neighbouring Turkey. Settling in a new country where many don’t speak the language is a huge challenge. That is why computer programmer Mojahid Akil, himself a Syrian refugee, has created the
Gherbtna app, which helps exiled Syrians adjust to life in Turkey.

It provides much-needed guidance to the confusing and disorienting process of settling into a new country.

“We created this application just over a year ago to help Syrians living in Turkey who don’t know how to communicate with people in Turkey, or face difficulties obtaining residency and opening bank accounts, people who suffer from a lack of information. So that’s why we created this application and website,” says Mojahed Akil.

Both the app and its website have proved extremely popular among Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Currently available on Andorid handsets, the app should soon be available for a variety of other smartphone users.

“Initially, there were just two of us who launched this project. After eight months, we developed the website and the application so it became easier to use. We have one app for Androids and we are going to launch an app for the iPhone and Windows Phone,” says Akil.

Gherbtna, the name of the app, is an Arabic word that means exile, loneliness, and the feeling of being foreign – a concept not at all unfamiliar to the millions of people who have been displaced because of the conflict in Syria.

A customisable phone you can print at home

A British start-up that allows you to create your own mobile phone is now hoping to go global via a Kickstarter campaign.

The OwnFone kit allows users to draw their own individual design for a four-button handset and print it, either as a two-dimensional cover, or a three dimensional shell to be fitted around the cell phone.

OwnFone is the brainchild of Tom Sunderland: “What we’ve done is we’ve merged a drawing app with the process of making your own phone. So simply, what you do is draw your phone. So here’s the app, you can choose a four-button image phone and draw whatever you want on it. Once you’ve finished we then take your design and we print it for you straight away and then you walk out with the phone that you’ve just drawn, and it’s ready to use,” he says.

If you have access to a 3D printer, OwnFone also proposes the PrintFone Kit, which includes blank mobile phone units as well as 3D printer filament and software.

“It’s a developer’s kit that enables someone to print their own phone at home, either on a standard inkjet printer or a 3D printer. You get the phone components that you need to do that, the software, and really it gives people total freedom to create whatever they want. So the possibilities are endless in terms of creating your own customisable phone,” says Tom Sunderland.

Simplicity is the name of the game. The OwnFone is designed solely for talking and consists of just four programmable numbers – perfect for children, elderly people or people with disabilities. People with visual impairments, for example, can 3D print out specific names in braille which act as a tactile face plate for the phone.

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