Technology and the Refugee Crisis: Refugee Entrepreneurs Look to Close Gap With Free Communication
Like most of you, I am following the refugee crisis in Europe with great interest. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are spilling across European borders, leaving everything behind, in search of a better life for them and their loved ones. However, what is less publicized in this crisis is that many of the refugees are highly educated with technical skills, but they simply lack the financials means and resources to advance in their native country.
The refugee experience affects everyone differently, but for two entrepreneurs it stimulated their creative drive and helped inspire them to design and create a new communication solution that addressed the needs they, as well as other refugees, faced. The two are Ammar Naamat and Nawar Nory, refugee entrepreneurs, originally from Iraq, now living in the United States.
Nawar and Ammar met while working for a telecom carrier in Baghdad. They realized that in order to advance their careers and make a better life, a change in scenery was necessary. Living and working in Iraq was fraught with difficulties as computers were expensive and scarce, electricity was never reliable, and neither of them had access to the internet until 2001. At the outbreak of the war of the 2000s, the two separately decided to immigrate to the West. The process was long and arduous, lasting a total of 7 years from start to finish. Nawar was eventually protected by Canadian refugee law, however Ammar had to wait with his family in the Middle East for an additional two years until the United States granted him refugee status.
After a few years, the two met again and decided to collaborate on a project. Driven and inspired by their entrepreneurial ambition and refugee experiences, Ammar and Nawar wanted to create a space that was both safe and flexible to share experiences and stay in touch with family members spread across the globe. Essentially an app that was both founded on the principles of privacy and ease of use. This led to them developing Taza, is a group messaging app that provides users with an outlet to share social content with close friends and family, without using traditional methods of current social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. However, Taza also has the added caveat of being exclusive to users who mutually share each other’s contacts information. Think of it as Facebook Messenger synced exclusively to your phone contacts.
“Taza was created out of a need for privacy, organization of content and flexibility,” says Nawar. “We have families everywhere and the best way to keep in touch with them safely and economically was using messenger apps. Taza became a bridge between a communication app and a social feed, with the ability to have all your content offline with you, by being mindful of data charges that may come.”
The Taza team claim that the combination of social media and messaging in Taza provides a more advanced and efficient method to stay in touch with all of your important contacts. Nawar and Ammar state that the cornerstone of Taza is it’s easy to use group messaging. With just one click, Taza enables users to seamlessly create groups within the app. Rather than having to update all of your social and messaging platforms, they argue that Taza eliminates that necessity, and eases the process of staying in touch with all the people in your life closest to you.
Coming from a place where data and connectivity were extremely limited, Nawar and Ammar understood that this can be a complete barrier to communication and sharing. Data usage in Taza is minimal and will not bombard you with constant notifications and updates. Taza does require data to be used like all messaging apps, as new content can be downloaded directly to the mobile device, but at that stage the content is saved and users can freely browse content offline. Taza also ensures that all correspondence within the app secured through private servers.
Taza faces an uphill battle to compete with the likes of Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. These messaging apps are firmly entrenched as industry leaders. However, if Taza can establish itself as a streamlined way for personal communication, it may be able to find its niche market and have sustainability for the future. Moreover, entrepreneurs like Ammar and Nawar are showing the emergence of a trend of refugees who are attempting to solve the current crisis through tech.
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