The number of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people around the world has exceed 50 million for the first time since World War 2, the United Nations Refugee Agency reports, and more than half of the world’s 20 million refugees are children.
Together with refugees themselves, tech experts, entrepreneurs and social workers are using startup thinking to create solutions to empower and support the millions of people forced to relocate due to natural and man-made disasters.
By exposing people to methodologies in entrepreneurship including incubation, acceleration and investment, startups are discovering new opportunities in this major global challenge, iGen Foundation director and Cultov8 impact incubator founder Lynda Ford says.
“Techfugees has created a great deal of focus on the ability of tech to help people settle in Australia,” Ford tells StartupSmart.
“We often forget that migrants and refugees make a huge contribution to the Australian economy.”
To mark World Refugee Day, we looked at some of the best humanitarian solutions created by startups and entrepreneurs.
This emergency shelter system was developed by Adelaide inventor Neale Sutton after three years of research and development and a $77,000 innovation voucher from the state government.
“The Humanihut is an all-in-one, out-of-the-box solution that provides accommodation, toilet and showering facilities and integrates necessary services such as fresh water, sewerage disposal and power,” Sutton says.
“It is a cost-effective, innovative solution that has the potential to save international aid agencies millions of dollars.”
Before inventing Humanithut, Sutton spent three decades working in conflict zones as an army officer.
His creation is intended for use in communities and disaster-hit areas around the world and was listed in Disrupt 100 this year for its potential to impact global markets.
Refugee Intern is a platform helping newly settled refugees in Australia get local work experience through internships or traineeships.
Since inception at Sydney’s Techfugees in 2015, the startup has attracted more than 50 skilled refugees.
“Our big vision is refugees can go to any country and use their skills and experience with work opportunities from our platform,” Refugee Intern co-founder and CEO Anna Robson tells StartupSmart.
The platform features candidates with specialist skills in engineering and IT through to graphic design, healthcare and accounting.
“It allows refugees to be seen for the skills that they have,” Ford adds.
“It gives them networks, it gives them opportunities to exercise their skills and ensures they get a foot in the door.”
The startup is solving a wide scale problem for refugees, one that Refugee Intern’s co-founder and CTO Nirary Dacho experienced.
As a Syrian refugee highly qualified in web science and IT, Dacho went through a gruelling job seeking process only to be rejected repeatedly through more than 100 applications.
“We have progressed since the hackathon by partnering with a number of refugee organisations in NSW such as Settlement Services International, Core Community Services and Community Migrant Resource Centres to find suitable refugee candidates,” Robson says.
“We are now looking to expand more into the other states.”
Interpreter Central is a Melbourne startup helping resettled refugees better connect with people that speak their language and specific dialects.
The idea for an interpreter marketplace was created to address the problem with accredited interpreters not speaking particular dialects leaving many refugees in Australia unable to use standard interpreter services.
Ali Raza, Andre Bergh and Harry Sanders developed the idea at Melbourne’s first Techfugees hackathon and scored $5000 from LaunchVic.
The team have spent the past couple of months building their product at Cultov8 and will compete in a final pitch on July 2 against fellow Techfugee Melbourne finalists.
This Sydney startup helps community organisations streamline work processes so they can be more efficient and effective in working with refugees.
One of its key aims is to help organisations cut down administrative stress and tedious paperwork so caseworkers have more time to deliver critical services to refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable people.
Settlein.co is another graduate of Sydney’s Techfugees last November and was built with a team of refugees, case managers, counsellors and tech experts.
The platform empowers refugees to build new lives in Australia with goal-oriented support and lets caseworkers quickly tailor information and services for each client while providing assistance remotely.
This “world-proof” wi-fi case with a built-in battery can connect up to 150 devices to wireless internet anywhere.
The Croatian startup was created in response to the refugee crisis and recently won the humanitarian tech of the year award at The Europas, an event founded by TechCrunch editor Mike Butcher.
In a blog, MeshPoint founder Valent Turković says MeshPoint was designed to be easily replicable and adaptable.
“Our product is hacker and maker friendly and it’s open source to the bone,” Turković says.
“Since our product is made mostly out of off-the-shelf components we wanted to share our files and documentation on how to assemble and 3D print necessary parts so everybody from makers community can pitch in to help in crisis situations.”