Sweden launches app store for refugees

Sweden launches app store for refugees
Newcomers to Sweden can struggle to settle in - but help is on hand in the form of a brand new online platform full of handy apps for language learners, job hunters, and anyone else trying to get by in their new home.

The Setelin platform, a kind of app store for immigrants, is set to be launched later on Tuesday. It came about after the Migration Agency’s deputy director, Mikael Ribbenvik, got in touch with some leading lights in the Stockholm startup scene.

The idea took shape at a time when Sweden was taking in unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers last year, and the world was horrified by the haunting image of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a Mediterranean shore.

“That photo, and many others, triggered people’s unconditional will to help refugees, and among the numerous ‘Samaritans’ wanting to help were a very committed group of young tech experts in Sweden,” he told The Local Voices.

He enlisted the help of Tyler Crowley, who runs the Stockholm Tech Meetup, and together they helped set up a three-day Hackathon in May this year. Among the participants was Refugee Tech, a group that uses technology to assist newcomers and build bridges with Swedish society.

Refugee Tech co-initiator Milad Fallah said the Setelin project tied in exactly with what his team was already working on.

Setelin will combine 20 apps across eight categories, all aimed at smoothing integration, and ranging from accommodation to jobs, legal advice, access to services, and meeting Swedish friends.

“Setelin will help asylum seekers, and those granted asylum, to surf the language app, for example, where they can learn Swedish — or other community apps where they can easily meet people in similar situations,” Fallah said.

The Migration Agency will link to the platform from its website. The agency has vetted all the apps, but didn’t spend a single krona on their creation.

“It all emerged from the tech community’s great will to help, voluntarily,” said Mikael Ribbenvik.

Once the platform is up and running the apps will be rated by users, with the most popular given prominence on the platform. But while the project hasn’t yet had any funding, Milad Fallah said that could change:

“I think for Setelin to be sustainable, it might need investment – and for the private sector to get involved as well,” he said. 

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