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VU Students Create App For The Homeless

Despite common believe most homeless people in the Netherlands have a smartphone but don’t know how to use it optimally. Homeless people are often categorized as a hard to reach target group even more so when it comes to digitalization.

Nowadays, almost everything goes digital, including the government, insurers and banks who increasingly expect their customers to be digitally skilled. The graduation project of Marc Hegeman and Bandro Edoga and several other students are about the digital dichotomy: how do you reach people who cannot save themselves in the digital world? Older people, for example, and low-literate people. Students in information sciences devise solutions to make the life of digital illiterates easier. This year, homeless people were included as a target group for the first time.

To create an adequate solution, both students volunteered at a nonprofit called Sant Egidio. There they frequently heard questions like: Where can I sleep tonight? Where can I eat for free on other days of the week? From these conversations, they gathered that not all of them have a smartphone, but that they are often in a group in which at least one person has a smartphone. Based on the conversations, Edoga and Hegeman created an app with relevant information for homeless people. The app contains information on places to sleep, places to shower, places to eat, food banks, and medical services. The app is available in Dutch, Spanish, English, Polish, Chinese, French, German, Arabic, and Russian.

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