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Studens Build Web Application For Refugees

Two Windesheim students have been commissioned by UNHCR to build a web application that enables refugees to use age-old traditions and craftsmanship. In addition, the application provides access to meaningful work as well as a fair income.

As part of their HBO-ICT degree programme, Jesse Gevers (19) and Jordi Mulder (19) did a ten-week internship at the Harderwijk ICT company Flexyz. One of the company’s business relations was looking for someone who could build a web application for UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), the refugee organization of the United Nations. A nice assignment for second-year students Jesse and Jordi, which also fits in with their specialization in Software Engineering.

Project Made51

Refugees are often stuck in camps for prolonged periods of time and to give their life more dignity, the Made51 project has been set up. This project aims to link refugees to social enterprises in the local area around the camps. The craftsmanship many of these people possess - especially weaving, braiding and metal processing - can be put to good use. The refugees make pillows, baskets, dishes and jewellery. Communication by phone and e-mail is currently rather sluggish. Companies are sometimes at a great distance from the camp and not allowed to enter, while the refugees may not just leave the camp either.

In order to solve this problem, UNHCR has described the production process in general outline. Jesse and Jordi worked out the technical specifications in order to develop a web application. This can be used to monitor the production process, to fine-tune communication and to structure the overall process. "A production manager within the refugee camp logs in and makes contact with the local company. This company then places an order with a specification, any designs, materials, volumes, variants and how much the refugees get paid per product. UNHCR arranges the supply of the raw materials needed. Once the production process has started, the company receives weekly progress updates", says Jesse.

Continued Development of Application

In the next few weeks, Jesse will continue working at Flexyz on the development of the application to deliver a test version after the summer. The system can then be used by a select group in the refugee camps. The web application will subsequently be presented during an international UNHCR conference in Geneva in November. At the same time, a group of students from the new Windesheim minor Web & Analytics will start working at Flexyz. Their job will be to improve the test version based on feedback and to configure the system in such a way that its use can be measured. Expectations are for the students to deliver a system ready for use in refugee camps worldwide by the end of January.