Renee Black speaks at a hackathon focused on problems facing newcomers in Vancouver in 2016.
Data Sustainability

The immigration system is confusing. But soon, we’ll have an app for that.

Renee Black of PeaceGeeks on using technology to help refugees
Alia Dharssi June 11, 2018

Over the past few weeks, data reporter Francesca Fionda and I have been busy speaking to refugees and people who work with them about Canada’s resettlement system and how well it works.

At the end of May, we sat down with Renee Black, co-founder and executive director of Peace Geeks, a non-profit that creates technology-based solutions for humanitarian problems. They’re in the midst of designing Pathways, an app that “aims to welcome refugees and immigrants to Canada by helping them navigate their most urgent needs.

Renee Black (centre), co-founder and executive director of PeaceGeeks, speaks to reporter Alia Dharssi (left).

 

Black and her team told me PeaceGeeks surveyed dozens of newcomers and found that they were confused about what services were available to them and didn’t know who to ask for clear information. To add to the confusion, the services they have access to differ based on their immigration status, including whether they are refugee claimants, have refugee status or came to Canada as skilled immigrants.

Now, PeaceGeeks is working on an app that builds a personalized to-do list for newcomers and connects them with resources based on a brief survey about their needs and status. It’s going to start piloting the app this year with plans for a launch across Metro Vancouver in April 2019. PeaceGeeks aims to eventually scale their app up across Canada.  

“The journey doesn’t end when you arrive in Canada. It really begins because you have to learn the language, you have to learn whether or not the skills that you have are going to be relevant to the career that you wanted to pursue, you need to make friends, and you need to access networks that you don’t have because you don’t know anyone here and so on,” explains Black.

“One of the things that we’re trying to achieve with this app is, before you arrive in Canada, you’re able to start building out this personalized roadmap and by the time you’re landing, you’re hitting the ground running because you already know what to expect.”

In the coming weeks, Francesca and I will continue to explore the challenges newcomers face and we’d love to hear from you. Email me or fill out the form below to let us know what you think and what questions you’d like us to explore.

 

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