Out of a total population of 27 million, nearly 3.5 million Nepali labour migrants face tremendous challenges throughout their journeys, as they struggle to understand the complex process of migration and its risk i.e the often dangerous conditions like labour exploitation, human trafficking and all the other problems they face while working so far from home.
The Shuvayatra app was founded by an international and multi-disciplinary team of staff of The Asia Foundation based in Nepal and San Francisco. The financial support for the application was also provided by The Asia Foundation.
In Nepal, various things restrict the migrants to gain all the necessary information regarding the migration process. While government’s labour migration agencies and service providers are only concentrated at Kathmandu, many of the problems are faced by the migrants who are coming from the rural countryside, especially the women. The migrant workers have difficulty socializing abroad as they cannot easily understand and reply in other languages. On top of that, all the information given by the brokers, fake agencies is not authentic and they rarely give correct information. Hence, they cannot adapt easily in the society abroad.
To address this information gap, the team of The Asia Foundation developed the app together with a dedicated consortium of local innovators, civil society partners and social entrepreneurs in Nepal, including Young Innovations, a Nepali IT firm and the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), the largest and most prominent umbrella organization of the Nepalese diaspora abroad. Shuvayatra app is currently operating in its beta version.
Through the beta version of the app, migrants can access critical information and resources they need to stay safe of working environments that are often dangerous, abusive and illegal. The clear and understandable explanations of the migration process helps the prospective migrants to make more informed decisions and avoid unnecessary risks. Featuring quick capsules of relevant information, the app delivers audios, videos, Facebook links, and written content directly to migrant workers. Topics include labour rights, work permits, application process, local do’s and don’ts, working conditions abroad, and special content specifically for women and girls. The app also provides country-specific guidance for the most common destination countries of Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The app also contains specific content that has been tailored for migrant workers by workers themselves addressing their specific information needs.
Here is something, that the developers have to say on the development of the app:
We started the development of the app with a design sprint, to understand the users and test the idea to solve their problem of the information gap. Design Sprint is a design thinking framework created by Google Venture to test ideas faster. Then we developed a beta version of the app, which was built using agile software development methods and a hyper-local focus, with continual testing and iteration. Each feature of the application was designed and tested with prospective and returning male and female labour migrants in Nepal, and all of its content was vetted by local migration experts and rights advocates. Testing and development continue with a 1.0 launch expected later in the year.
With all the words about the reasons for development of the app, here is what the team had to say to some of our questions:
Despite your love for the people, what else motivated you to build the app?
Shuvayatra leverages the single most powerful device possessed by the majority of migrant workers: their mobile phones. Nepal’s mobile penetration rate has already passed 80%, and for many of the younger Nepalese, who make up the migrant worker population, smartphones are their primary link to everything from radio to social media. As a result, there is tremendous potential for mobile devices to support migrant workers across the country in accessing reliable information on the migration process and directing them to available services in Nepal and destination countries.
What were main challenges and difficulties you faced while building the app?
One of the central precepts underlying the Shuvayatra app is that content should be easily understandable and relevant in users’ daily lives. Existing materials covering migration issues tend to be highly academic, legalistic, or simply not available in the Nepali language. Thus a lot of time was spent by the Shuvayatra team on generating new content in Nepali and refining this based on feedback received from migrant workers.
How do you plan to reach to those people who are in need of such help?
Many of the migrant workers going for the first time abroad have lower literacy skills making them extra vulnerable to abuse and exploitation as a result of not being able to understand the limited but complex information available on the labour migration process. The Shuvayatra app, therefore, focuses on providing accessible and easy-to-understand information, including short audio interviews with experienced migrants and topic experts, which can be understood even by users with poor literacy skills. The app itself is also structured in a way that allows for constant updating, ensuring that users can view a dynamic feed of this sort of high-quality information and support, no matter where in the world they go. And since each item can be individually downloaded and stored on the user’s phone, users can continue viewing saved content even when they do not have access to the Internet. This is especially important for potential and returnee female migrants, who often have less frequent internet access than male migrants as a result of restrictions on mobility, especially in the case of domestic workers.
What are your plans with Shuvayatra app?
The beta version of the Shuvayatra app is the beginning of a multipart process in which new features will be added to the app over the coming months to develop Shuvayatra into a platform for the global community of Nepali migrant workers to share content, ideas, and answers to critical questions that arise from the migration process.
At last, any suggestions for the people who want to build their own Startup or any messages to the people?
For any start-up, it is important to invest the necessary time and effort to understand its client. In developing Shuvayatra, it has been crucial continuously to assess user needs and test assumptions regarding the user-interface and content of the app directly with both male and female migrant workers. By working with them each and every step in the design thinking process, the Shuvayatra team has been able to tailor the content and the features of the app to the real needs of migrant workers. Going forward, the team will conduct further user-testing to assess user-patterns among migrant workers and identify their key information and communication needs.
Link to Shuvayatra App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.taf.shuvayatra
For further information and contact, you can visit their official site: http://shuvayatra.org
The story behind the app can be inspiring to step up and take action against all the wrongdoing in the present world. Well, we can’t stop the mass of migrants that are traveling abroad, but we can do away the problems that they are facing. Personally, this app can be useful to all the migrants who are in great need of help and guidance. The energy and enthusiasm of the team dedicated to Shuvayatra is vivid and strong. So I wish the team and all the personnel who helped to develop Shuvayatra app a good luck. May they achieve their goal, and reach the needy ones and put smiles on their faces.