Turkey is now home to over 3.5 million Syrian refugees. According to the latest data from June 2018 from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the country hosts more refugees than any other country in the world.
With the initial influx of refugees fleeing Syria in 2012-13, neighboring Turkey’s relief efforts were focused on emergency response to meet their immediate needs for shelter, blankets, food and other essential services.
In the 6 years since that initial intake, with the Syrian conflict ongoing, Turkey has shifted its refugee approach from emergency response to integration.
Enter, ‘Hello Hope,’ an innovative mobile application (app) proving the incredible power of “mobile for integration.”
‘Hello Hope’ is a mobile app that teaches language skills, provides instant speech translation, offers guidance on registration and other services specific for Syrian refugees arriving in Turkey.
The app was developed by local telecommunication giant, Turkcell, with partners including digital learning platform Turkcell Academy. In addition, they have partnered with GSMA, the United Nations, Red Crescent, Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency and other NGOs to roll out their mobile solution.
Of the Syrians already living in Turkey, some 50% believe that Turkey will continue to be their home in the coming 5 years, says Turkcell.
Through the app, Turkcell found a way to support these newcomers, and has opened up a new subscriber base for the company — proving that ‘doing good’ and ‘being profitable’ can go hand-in-hand.
“Over the next 3 to 5 years there will be a series of technological breakthroughs to our lives. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, Internet of things, robotics. And all these tools will excite us and allow for more productivity, and allow us to be more profitable… But we should also not forget that those same technologies can be used to improve human life,” believes Kaan Terzioğlu the CEO Turkcell.
The ‘Hello Hope’ app was developed to “ease adaptation phase of refugees to Turkey and to bring connectivity to essential services to the Syrian community in Turkey,” explains Turkcell’s website.
Launched in September 2016, Turkcell’s app has now reached more than 800,000 users, with almost 500 million Turkish-language card views and 12 million uses of the speech translation feature to date, demonstrating the need for and the potential of such solutions.
It’s estimated that only around 10% of arriving Syrians spoke any Turkish, so developing local language content was key for these new users.
The app has won international recognition from the United Nations Global Compact. And in 2017, they emerged the winner of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prizes in the category for ‘Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content.’
— WSIS (@WSISprocess) October 5, 2017
WSIS Prizes is a unique international contest that awards development-oriented strategies, projects and programmes that leverage the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs.)
Linked with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the WSIS Prizes contest serves as the platform for identifying and showcasing the success stories across the WSIS Action Lines defined in the Geneva Plan of Action and SDGs. It also provides models that can be replicated or scaled.
The SDGs related to this project include SDG 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries and SDG 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.
Turkcell has been a pioneer in mobilizing the power of communication to support refugees. In addition to building the app, they invested in infrastructure including cell towers to meet increased demand near refugee camps. They also established Turkey’s first Arabic-language call centre to assist Syrians seeking advice about their service.