As the needs of refugees worldwide become more complex, a growing collection of technology groups are working to serve them as people, not problems.
I first met Paul-Emmanuel Levy in Paris in October 2017, at the first global summit to be held by Techfugees, a non-profit that helps coordinate the international tech community’s response to the needs of refugees.
Earlier that day he had been fervently pitching his start-up Quickbed, which optimises accommodation availability for the homeless.
Levy told me he’d given up his job in investment banking to develop Quickbed, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he and his chief technology officer could continue without any funding.
The next time we spoke was in May 2018. After “two good years” developing two versions of the platform, his CTO had left to focus on his family.
Levy now needs to raise €15,000 so he can engage an agency to program the next version. Then Quickbed can be officially piloted.
Techfugees was founded by Mike Butcher, editor-at-large of the technology news website TechCrunch, during the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015.
He believed that the technology world’s “considerable firepower” could help provide digital solutions for refugees as well as NGOs and other groups.
Butcher then brought London-based Joséphine Goube (named one of Forbes’ 30 and Under social entrepreneurs in 2016) on board as COO, then eventually as CEO.
Chapters now exist in around 25 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Kenya, Australia, Italy, Turkey, Lebanon and the United States.
“Techfugees is a global community of 18,000 techies, start-ups, NGOs, impact advisors, refugees, and entrepreneurs all over the world who increasingly turn to each other for support, information and best-practice sharing,” says Goube.
“It supports the projects that emerge from local chapter events by connecting and partnering with key players, some of which help the start-ups with expertise, advice, space, resources, communication, and so on.”
Through conferences, workshops, hackathons and meetups, the Techfugees community supports tech services across five areas: infrastructure, education, identity, health and inclusion.
You can order a copy of Overture Magazine here.