Using technology to help refugees

refugee crisis CSC response CSC Blogs

Figures released by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, in its latest Global Trends report showed that 65.3 million people — or one person in 113 — were displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution in 2015. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the population of the United Kingdom or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined.

The refugee crisis is a global issue, and one that has sometimes divided political and popular opinion. But Germany’s welcoming of refugees made headlines around the world in 2015. Official figures from the federal office for migrants and refugees (BAMF) show that 1.1 million refugees arrived in Germany that year.

Settling such large numbers of people, many of whom have suffered through trauma and hardship, is a considerable administrative challenge. Working with a Berlin-based non-profit, Initiative D21, and other partners, CSC in Germany helped create the next-generation Refugee Support Platform that provides an efficient online space for government officials to quickly access refugee-related IT services.

I caught up with fellow CSCer, Dr. Philipp Müller, General Manager for the Public Sector in Central & Eastern Europe and a board director for D21, to find out about the role he played in the project.

Shaping digital society

Philipp began by explaining the role of Initiative D21, Germany’s largest non-profit partnership between government and industry for the digital society. “D21 includes about 200 member companies and institutions from a cross-sector network, as well as political partners from federal, state and local governments. The aim is to shape the digital society with not for profit pioneering projects and to make Germany socially and economically successful in the digital world of the 21st century,” he said.

When the refugee crisis started, Philipp and two additional board members of Initiative D21 got together to discuss how they could support government and civil society organizations. Their aim was to help government help the refugees, so they created a community and developed a pledge platform that would connect those donating to the cause with those organisations committed to integrating refugees into society.

The community then organized a successful Refugee Summit for the interior minister, bringing together several hundred representatives of non-government organizations, civil servants and companies to discuss how best to help and support refugees.

Clear business benefits

I was curious to understand more about CSC’s role in the project. Philipp told me, “Several of our consultants invested their free time in the project. Some did technical work, architecting, designing, and developing the platform while others supported with the project management side of things such as organizing the Refugee Summit and the community meetings. Everyone involved got so much out of the project.”

While much was achieved last year, Philipp explained that there is still much to do. “Together with the community, we’ll be coming together in 2017 to discuss where we focus next. We’ll be speaking to those who work in the field to get a better understanding of the issues and will be looking to partner with other not-for-profit organisations that specialise in refugee aid initiatives.” he said.

On the benefits to CSC, Philipp was very clear,” We work for the Interior Ministry and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Our (corporate responsibility) work allowed us to better serve our clients because, in doing so, we were able to develop a better understanding of the situation. That gave us insights that we would not have developed otherwise.”

Philipp added, “And working on something so important to our community also gave us all meaning to what we do. I am very proud that CSC is playing a part in that.”

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