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Mobilearn: A mobile service for newly arrived immigrants

Author: SIE
Published Date: 5 January 2016

Mobilearn is a mobile-based service that provides newly arrived immigrants important information in an easy and accessible way. Using modern technology and a modern approach to integration, individuals can easily take on everyday challenges, which otherwise may seem out-of-reach, especially in a new country. The user can, for example, type the word "doctor" in their native language into the search engine in Mobilearn. The search engine then looks for information about "doctor" in various government databases and presents the most relevant first, in one's native language with a Swedish translation.


This technology is based on the idea that immigrants should have the same opportunity to create a living, a life and a future on their own, with help and support from a mobile "cicerone" anywhere at anytime. This is all in accordance with the UN's human rights conventions.


Mobilearn was a finalist in the EIB Institute's Social Innovation Tournament and received an honourable mention by the jury.


SIE recently interviewed one of the founders of Mobilearn, Ernest Radal for our Beyond Crisis: Innovative Approaches to the Integration of Migrants collection. 


How did you recognize the need for a service like Mobilearn and what were the challenges faced when setting it up?


In 2010, my colleague Claes Persson and I were discussing the issues of integration. We had our own personal experience on the topic: Claes had previously lived in New York and although being a European with good English language skills, he discovered it wasn´t always easy to navigate in the society and through governments trying to get a social security number for example. As for myself, my parents and family came to Sweden more than 30 years ago, and I still had to translate government information, letters etc. to them. I grew up with the scary results of alienation and exclusion.


In 2010, 98 801 people immigrated to Sweden and the average period between any permit to work was between 7-9 years. Sadly, this hasn't changed in Sweden. Even today, it still takes about 7-9 years. We could see that the lack of an accessible “society and language guide” would continue to create the parallel neighbourhoods, the ghettos and the societies within our own. So we decided to do something about it - and that's how Mobilearn was born.


 Our first mission was to connect and collect important information from our largest authorities. This proved to be a challenge for many reasons. First of all, none of the authorities had easy ways to access the information such as open data etc. so we had to develop our own “connectors”. Secondly, the information we got was in huge chunks and not organized at all, meaning that we had to format the text ourselves all over again. Thirdly, we had to convince the authorities it was a good idea, since none of them wanted to be a part of a digital solution containing any other information than their own. And last, but certainly not least, we had to translate all the authorities information into different languages, since they didn't have it themselves.  


 


Since its inception, what impact has Mobilearn had and what type of support has it received? 


When we first started we created an advisory board consisting of our local community, Gothenburg, and a group of end-users, immigrants. And then we slowly worked our way forward to a product perfectly adapted for our future clients and their users, the immigrants.


Three years later, in 2013, we had our first saleable product and we started visiting our clients. During development years, we didn't get any economical support, besides a small grant of 10 000 Euros. Everything was funded privately from our founders.


 We have signed contracts for approximately 25 000 licenses as of today and we are currently working with approximately 120 Swedish municipalities, regions and county governments. We're also suppliers to the Swedish Employment Service and the Swedish Immigration Service, to name a few. 


Looking at the social- and socioeconomical impact on individuals using Mobilearn and their municipalities, we are seeing for example that the time of integration is declining from 7-9 years to less. Time and resources spent on day-to-day questions are getting fewer and the municipalities are cutting down on resources and costs, that can be used in other areas. The individuals are empowered to integrate on their own, which also has a socioeconomical effect.


Just how big of an economical effect Mobilearn has on society is at the moment is being independently studied by Stockholm University and Chalmers University in Gothenburg. This report is due to be delivered in early 2016.


How have you seen your role changing in response to Europe’s recent migrant crisis? For instance, do you see the project being extended to other countries?


Sweden has been our proof of concept market, and our plan has always been to expand abroad. Meanwhile, due to the historically high levels of refugees and Europe’s recent migrant crisis, we were forced to move faster than planned in our internationalisation. The demand for our services was simply never-ending. That's why we established Mobilearn UK earlier this year, and we are planning to establish Germany and Canada during 2016. 


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Watch this video to learn more about Mobilearn.