When we started 121 we knew there would be many different types of needs, many levels of (digital) literacy and myriads of levels of connectivity. Creating an app for “self registration” has many challenges. Here are three different pilot stories told in parallel that highlight the challenges we tried to answer in one app. Names have been omitted and situations have been generalised to protect the identity of the People affected who have both co designed and received aid through the 121 pilots.
Early morning 24th November, under the shadow of an umbrella thorn tree in Kipsing Kenya, a volunteer sets up the registration station. She lays out the tablet and disinfectant and wipes down the screen of a fully charged android tablet carefully. The sun is up but not yet high, the small but dense leaves above will ensure the digital screen can be seen throughout the day.
Mid day December 20th at a freshly wiped wooden table in the corner of a day shelter basement in Amsterdam, a young man logs on to the free WIFI and hears the pings of the WhatsApp messages that have been sent during the time he was offline due to no data. Near by is a volunteer wearing a Rode Kruis jersey and mask who had already greeted him when he came in.
Late evening 22nd January, sitting on their single beds in their room in a shared apartment on the outskirts of Amsterdam, two Filipino migrant workers receive a WhatsApp message from the “Rode Kruis” at the same time. They live with family 7 family members some have been working over 15 years, cleaning, cooking in private households (mostly expats) across the city.
LANGUAGE & UX COPY
There are circa 6.500 languages, spoken or written around the world today. When you have been affected by a disaster or crises you are at your most vulnerable. You may be too stressed to comprehend registration forms, they may not be in your native language, you my be illiterate or have low literacy, or you may be digitally illiterate. The one thing that all co designs showed from Post Hurricane St. Maarten to isolation in Ukraine, violently displaced communities in Ethiopia to Drought and Flood affected communities in Malawi and Kenya, clear communication is key. When speaking to a UX copy writer specialized in global digital products they said “Keep the language simple, Keep it human, things can be easily mistranslated form context to context” A perfect example was when a Kenyan Red Cross volunteer laughed when asked to translate the commonly accepted UI word “Submit”…. needless to say we went with their advice and amended it to “Send”.
Village Gathering: The volunteer tests the play buttons on the screen to see if both the spoken translations in Samburu and Turkana can be heard on the tablets speakers over the gentle breeze coming up through the brush form the hillside. It was a local volunteer that had translated them, recording phrase by phrase on WhatsApp voice message, a steady kind voice that had been achieved by imagining they were talking directly to a person they were helping. It had been discussed earlier with other team members that it would have been good to also have it in Kiswahili too for certainty, but at least it will save her and other volunteers translating questions repeatedly through out the day.
Day shelter: The young man opens up the URL link he received in a WhatsApp message in English from “The Netherlands Red Cross” and is surprised to see he can select his native language. He can see options in English (Written and Spoken), French, Arabic and Tigrinya. When he selects his language he learns that if he registers he could be eligible to receive a weekly digital supermarket voucher delivered through WhatsApp. He hesitates before he opens the link. “Will this link infect my phone?” he asks himself.
At Home: The WhatsApp message is written in Tagalog, explaining they have been invited to self register for a program that is distributing digital supermarket vouchers weekly to people eligible for the program based on criteria explained in the chat. They can use the link in this WhatsApp message to open up the self registration app to answer the questions to see if they are eligible. It is estimated that over 24 million people speak Tagalog outside of the Philippines. Some of the many countries where this language is spoken include Canada, Guam, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
TRUST, COMMUNICATION & ASSISTANCE
In normal circumstances if you are a smart phone user, would you trust a link in a WhatsApp sent by a phone number you don’t recognize? What if it was said it came from a Brand you recognized? The majority of us would weigh up the options before clicking it. Some of the people affected that we are inviting to register have far more to loose than having their personal identity stolen to be used for financial gain. In the many co design sessions with undocumented migrants 121 HCD was repeatedly told about their concerns for their own safety when sharing personal information, of using certain apps to communicate over others due to trust issues, we knew that clear CEA outside of the system was needed to build trust and understanding when introducing a digital tool like this that was to deliver humanitarian assistance. Below you can see the basic hurdles the CEA needs to overcome to build awareness and trust in the products. Yellow is the CEA’s work and Pink is the the conversion to act.
Village gathering: Under another cluster of trees group of people are waiting patiently to start the process of self registration. The volunteers have been given a brief training in a different registration process. The standard situation of a practicing translations of questions in a Kobo form, filling in the answers on behalf of the person registering was replaced by a new process using “self registration”. This registration process would ask the person affected to embark on an unfamiliar process, using an unfamiliar touch screen, listening to questions in their native language in albeit an unfamiliar way.
Day Shelter: He would normally be wary of receiving a link in a message, but the aid worker helping this group of undocumented migrants waiting for permanent shelter, had made sure he knew it would be coming. He opens up the web app on his own (slightly cracked) touch screen. He starts to read through the questions and opens up the pop up window “about personal information” and can see who will see his information and why. He also knows that if he needs it he can ask the Red Cross volunteer at the shelter or the online WhatsApp help desk mentioned in the link to help him through the process.
At Home: They had heard through a trusted local Filipino community Facebook group, that this link would be sent to out to many in their community, in fact 196 received the link in a batch message at the same time as they did. One of the two is a bit confused about the first message, they didn’t know that they have to click the link on the message and create an account they assumed it would have been automatic. Of the 196 invited in the first invitation message, over a hundred self registered successfully, with out any help, that same evening.
WHO & WHY & WHAT DATA TO COLLECT
WHAT INFORMATION WHOULD BE ASKED & WHY
In normal circumstances if you are a smart phone user, would you trust a link in a WhatsApp sent by a phone number you don’t recognize? What if it was said it came from a Brand you recognized? The majority of us would weigh up the options before clicking it. Some of the people affected that we are inviting to register have far more to loose than having their personal identity stolen to be used for financial gain. In the many co design sessions with undocumented migrants 121 HCD was repeatedly told about their concerns for their own safety when sharing personal information, of using certain apps to communicate over others due to trust issues, we knew that clear CEA outside of the system was needed to build trust and understanding when introducing a digital tool like this that was to deliver humanitarian assistance.
This particular community has been badly affected by drought, many have sought ways to diversify their income but the situation remains difficult. The people invited to register for cash based assistance today, need additional income to help support themselves and their family. The 121 pilot was set up under the local guidance of the Kenya Red Cross society to distribute two payments to help the community in these difficult times.
There are a number of people in Amsterdam that (when they finally hear about their existence) come to these day shelters. Homeless, undocumented migrants trying to access their basic human right to food and shelter and information. Information that they can use to help themselves. This information can tell them where they can access safe temporary shelter, healthcare and legal aid. While they are on the waiting list for housing programs or awaiting asylum they sleep rough or if they are in time a night shelter of if very lucky on a friends couch.
Amsterdam has many Filipino migrant workers who lost their jobs due to the effects of the covid-19 pandemic. Many of their employers are expats who have returned to wait out the pandemic in their home countries, no longer needing their services. Although they have been working for many years in the Netherlands they do not have access to government support and have difficulty in accessing other aid. For this reason a digital food voucher program was organized together the efforts and volunteers from Filipino LGBT Europe to reach out & assist all Filipino migrants currently in need.