TechTalk: Hi Hendrik, would you please introduce yourself briefly.
Hendrik Lösch: My name is Hendrik Lösch. I work as a senior consultant for Microsoft technologies at Saxonia Systems AG. I am also the technical project leader and co-initiator behind the Welcome App Concept. This is an app concept that informs refugees about their situation and Germany.
How did you come up with the idea for the app?
The X-GIDA movement in Germany started in Dresden at the end of 2014 with the first marches by PEGIDA. During this time, my employer, Saxonia Systems AG, began looking for ways to help refugees. It was within this context that our chairwoman Viola Klein realised that the best way to do this would be to provide them with as much relevant information as possible. As around 80% of asylum applicants have access to a smartphone, developing an app was an obvious approach. The app was first released for Dresden together with the company HeiReS.
Why do you talk of a “concept” rather than just an app?
Instead of starting out with an app, we first developed the concept behind the app by working together with refugees to determine the requirements and possible approaches to finding solutions. The concept represents our vision, which we then implemented step by step. The first steps included the release of the app for Dresden. We are now working on opening up the app to other cities.
What problems does the app solve?
The app contains information relating to the topics of “Asylum in Dresden” and “Living in Germany”. This information provides users with short but pertinent information and provides them with the opportunity to find out more. Furthermore, the app includes the addresses and contact information for the most important institutions and public authorities. In future, the app will be extended to include a check list for dealing with various public authorities, an FAQ for Germany and other features that will make dealing with the everyday experience of asylum seekers somewhat easier.
How far advanced is the project?
The app is availabe for both Windows Phone and Android. An iOS version should also be available from the start of September. We are currently working on translating the Android app into additional languages, as it is now only available in English. The Windows version already supports five languages. In future, all platforms should also support German, Ukrainian, French, Arabic, Russian and common African languages. Furthermore, we are also currently talking to various German cities, who are interested in adopting the concept.
Have you already received feedback; have you found backers or partners?
The most important partner for the app is HeiReS. They designed the UI, worked on a large portion of the content and are now responsible for maintaining the entire Windows Phone version. We at Saxonia are currently working on making all features available on the Android and iOS platforms, and, together with HeiReS, we are working on integrating other cities with the aim of making our concept available across all of Germany. On top of all that, we are also planning on cooperating with the technical university of Munich.
To date, we have received very good feedback from public authorities. The app is provided by us free of charge and has not received any outside funding to date. We have received so many offers from the development community to help us program the app that we unfortunately have to turn offers down regularly. Last but not least, all content in the app is the result of voluntary work by various people. This includes both validating existing data and translating the informational content.
What does the success of this project mean to you, and when will you have reached your goals?
From my point of view, it’s only possible for people to integrat into society if they are able to inform themselves. How else will I know how to behave in a foreign cultural environment, if nobody tells me? How will I be able to deal with something as complex as asylum law, when it seems that even the experts sometimes have their difficulties? Not to mention that everything is written in a language that I probably do not have a good understanding of. For me, it’s already been a success to shed a little light in a time of darkness. The number of downloads is all the acknowledgment I need ;)
You used SpecLog within the scope of the project. How did that help you?
Speclog helped a lot to determine the requirements and prepare them. As SpecLog is a very lightweight tool, it was quick and easy to use it within our discussions, and we didn’t waste time filling in complicated input forms with information that ends up being more of a hinderance than a help in the long run. We were also able to use SpecLog to ensure that the requirements were kept up-to-date and accessible to the various teams at all times.
Thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview!