• 12/3/2015

Integreat: TUM students develop free app for refugees

Smartphone app aims to make new start easier for refugees

Where is the nearest doctor’s office, which schools offer German courses, and what is the deadline for submitting particular applications? Finding answers to such questions is vitally important to refugees arriving in Germany. Students and staff at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed a free app that provides key information. "Integreat" went online for Augsburg last week.<br /><br />

Martin Schrimpf, Maximilian Schreieck, Julia Götz, Prof. Helmut Krcmar and Dr. Manuel Wiesche.
They are significantly involved in the project "Integreat": Martin Schrimpf, Maximilian Schreieck, Julia Götz, Prof. Helmut Krcmar and Dr. Manuel Wiesche. (Photo: U. Benz / TUM)

For several years, the "Tür an Tür" (door to door) association in Augsburg has been compiling key information in a brochure for refugees in Augsburg that is updated every two years. However, address details and contact partners change quickly, which means that some information can be out-of-date after just a few weeks. Daniel Kehne, a student on the "Finance and Information Management" elite program at TUM and the University of Augsburg, is involved in the "Tür an Tür" project. He tackled the idea of digitalizing the brochure in Professor Helmut Krcmar’s Chair for Information Systems at TUM. There, he found great support for the initiative.

Students and staff at TUM - in cooperation with "Tür an Tür" and Augsburg’s social services department - developed the app known as "Integreat" within eight months. The Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth provided financial support for the project. The app was recently launched in Augsburg.

Available in five languages

"The biggest challenge was developing a basic structure," explains Dr. Manuel Wiesche who works at the Chair for Information Systems. The IT specialists opted for the free web software WordPress, which offers various advantages: "WordPress is very widely used, and plug-ins had already been developed that we can use for language management, for instance." This means the app programmers do not have to worry about correctly displaying Arabic letters and formatting the text accordingly.

The app is available in five languages: German, English, French, Arabic and Farsi. The team is also working on improving the visual language to convey more information via symbols.

App can be used offline

As the vast majority of the refugees have an Android smartphone, the app has been programmed for this system. However, most refugees do not have a tariff plan for online data usage. The app can therefore be used offline once it has been downloaded, for example, at a WLAN hotspot.

The software will be made available to every city and municipality as an open-source program; only a few adjustments to local conditions are required. This is also the major difference to other apps developed in the past to provide refugees with information.

Sustainable solution

Work on launching the Integreat app is already underway in Bad Tölz, while further initiatives in Munich, Regensburg, Erlangen, Nuremberg, Düsseldorf, Schwerin, Cologne and the Main-Taunus district have expressed an interest in using it. An enquiry has even been received from Vienna, says Wiesche.

Professor Helmut Krcmar refers to "Integreat" as a matter of great personal importance to him. As the chairperson of the Nationales E-Government Kompetenzzentrum in Berlin, he is very keen to see the app deployed throughout Germany: "We wish to promote involvement so that a sustainable solution is ultimately produced which will permanently benefit refugees."

To improve coordination of the project there are plans to found a non-profit company affiliated to the "Tür an Tür" association in Augsburg.

Immediate action program

TUM is making its courses available to refugees in an immediate action program. Since October they have been able to attend course modules in German or English free-of-charge as guest students to gain access to the German education system. A mentoring program provides the newcomers with support on the path to taking up studies. The refugees receive advice and help from the TUM Student Service Centre (SSZ) and have access to TUM’s services and facilities as part of the guest student program.

Weitere Informationen: http://www.tum.de/en/studies/international-students/refugees/

Highresolution photo

Dr. Manuel Wiesche
Technical University of Munich (TUM)
Faculty of Informatics
Tel: +49 (89) 289 - 19539
E-mail: wiesche@in.tum.de

Technical University of Munich

Corporate Communications Center

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