Refugees arriving in Germany likely treat their smartphones as a lifeline and a way to break the ice with locals in their host country. The German government, seeming to recognize the importance of the devices, has now developed an app that it hopes will help refugees deal with their new environment more adeptly.
The app, called Ankommen (it means “arrive” in German), is billed by its creators as “the guide for your first weeks in Germany.” It’s supposed to help incoming asylum seekers learn the language, understand German culture and customs, and find a job. Its website exhorts users to “become part of society and join in.”
The free app, launched Jan. 13, is available in five languages: English, Arabic, German, French and Farsi. It doesn’t contain ads and is designed to be used without an internet connection after it’s been installed.
The app was developed by the German government agencies in charge of labor and migration and refugees; by the Goethe Institute, a cultural outreach body; and by public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, which provided software development and content for the app. The app is currently for Android phones only, although an iPhone version is coming.
The app contains a language course, detailed guidance on the asylum process, job-hunting advice, and a section on German cultural mores, according to Der Tagesspiegel. After being beta-tested in refugee camps, the developers added information on, for example, freedom of religion in Germany, while an article on gender equality was added after a mass assault against women in Cologne, the newspaper reported.
Reviews on the Google Play shop suggest that the app has already been well received. It’s been given four stars out of five by 273 reviewers–although two users who left written reviews complain about the app’s “confusing” user interface. One reviewer, going by “Alaa Hashem,” gave the app five stars. “Sehr gut this application helped me so much,” the user wrote.
Ankommen isn’t the first app-assisted attempt to engage Germany’s incoming refugees. Enterprise software maker SAP developed an app for refugees to register themselves with German authorities in September 2015, while two Dresden companies launched a similar integration-focused app for their city in August 2015.
Germany received more than an estimated 430,000 applications from asylum seekers last year, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. A quarter of the applicants are of Afghan, Eritrean, or Syrian origin, according to the agency. Germany receives the highest number of applications in Europe.