23 March, 2017
Team Hand Sanitiser has bagged the top spot in the TechfugeesBNE 2017 hackathon in Brisbane, Queensland.
Team Hand Sanitiser came up with the idea for Springboard, an app that matches refugees with mentors.
What seemed to be a simple or common idea proved to be a solution that refugees, asylum seekers and NGOs said didn’t exist as no one has come up with an efficient solution to provide refugees with industry specific guidance to find jobs.
Springboard matches refugees with industry specific mentors in Australia.
Springboard uses a matching algorithm based on a mentee's goal, interests and needs to match with a mentor's experience, interests and strengths. This will ascertain the "mentorship compatibility" for both parties.
For example, Elsie is a refugee who has just moved to Brisbane. She wants to be a graphic designer and needs guidance on how to become one in Australia. She signs up to Springboard for free.
Susie is a practising graphic designer and has volunteered to be a mentor. She will receive verified mentor training and certification for a $50 certification fee.
Henry is with a creative agency and will pay a sponsorship fee of $5000 to fulfil his organisation's pledge to social responsibility.
TechfugeesBNE 2017 pitching competition judge Imtiaz Ali left Pakistan by boat for Australia in 2012. After a few years in Melbourne, he arrived in Brisbane in 2015.
Imtiaz said based on his experience, people don't really understand how difficult it is for refugees and asylum seekers to get a job no matter how skilled they are.
"No one will employ 'Imtiaz' when they see my name on a job application. It's not 'John' or 'David' so my chances of getting a job is very low. This is very frustrating but that is the reality.
"The Springboard app is a way of people like me to make a direct connection with a mentor who can help me with any challenges and to get a job.
"Young people don't like email but the mentoring platform will provide an engaging platform because it's simple to use," Imtiaz said.
Imtiaz said the app could be used by refugees even before coming to Australia, after receiving their humanitarian visas.
"The mentor matching process can start before refugees even arrive here.
"This app gives me hope and it would give others waiting to come to Australia hope for a better future," Imtiaz said.
Team Hand Sanitiser member Shahwali Kazimi, who fled Afghanistan in 2012 for Australia, said there was great need for an app such as Springboard amongst refugees.
Shahwali is part of a group who started a Facebook mentoring group last year for students and he said the response has been overwhelming.
"Refugees need a lot of help when they first come to a new country. The app would be a great way to get started on their career of choice as it is targeted according to the refugees’ skills and interests," he said.
Team Hand Sanitiser's Kelsey-Lee Stay, a designer and software developer, who pitched Springboard to judges, said she was confident the app could become a reality as coding could be completed in two weeks for a basic product.
TechfugeesBNE 2017 ran from Friday evening (March 17) to Sunday (March 19).
TechfugeesBNE was hosted by event sponsor and Queensland technology hub River City Labs in partnership with Marist180, MDA Ltd, Access Community Services, MultiLink Community Services, Australian Red Cross, and the Urban Informatics Research Lab @ QUT Design Lab.
Peta Ellis, River City Labs CEO and TechfugeesBNE judge, said: "I was really impressed with the prototypes the participants came up with in less than 54 hours at TechfugeesBNE.
"They really engaged with refugees and asylum seekers to come up with realistic solutions that are very much needed in the community."
Five teams made the final cut.
Team Hand Sanitiser won $1000 and membership at River City Labs. In second place was Team Let's Talk with its accent reduction solution (winning $500 and work space at Queensland University of Technology's Creative Enterprise Australia) and in third place was Big Box Orange with its Google cardboard 3D experience for refugees (receiving mentoring and online courses from Zenva Academy).
Day one saw people come together to map out initial ideas to tackle some of the problem areas refugees and asylum seekers face such as disability access and support, employment, entrepreneurship, health, housing, language, legal and migration advice, working qualifications, tracing family, and translation services.
Teams were then guided by mentors from the startup ecosystem as well as representatives from Marist180, MDA Ltd, Access Community Services, MultiLink Community Services, Australian Red Cross, Welcome to Australia, QUT and Energy Queensland.
On the final day teams pitched their solution to a panel of judges who looked for teams who had produced viable solutions to real problems.
Note: In 2015/16, the federal government granted 17,555 refugee and humanitarian visas, according to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s annual report.
TechfugeesBNE 2017 in Brisbane follows the successful events in Melbourne and Sydney in previous years.
Moved by the plight of refugees in Europe, a number of technology industry people have formed a voluntary team to create the series of non-profit "Techfugees” conferences, hackathons, and work with a global network of collaborators.
Today there are now over 2,000 members of Techfugees, demonstrating a huge desire amongst the tech community to get involved with this issue.
Our events are entirely non-profit, designed to bring together tech engineers, entrepreneurs and startups together with NGOs and other agencies in order to address the crisis in ways where the technology world can bring its considerable firepower.
About River City Labs
River City Labs is Brisbane's premier technology startup hub and central clubhouse for tech startups. It's a not-for-profit organisation aimed at fostering Queensland's startup ecosystem.
Current membership sits at over 100 members ranging from early stage startups and founders, to established startups and entrepreneurs who have successfully raised capital in the last 18 months.
River City Labs focuses on providing the right environment for entrepreneurs to make valuable contacts while learning from peers, mentors and industry experts who help them connect, work and grow.