Main trends

No data is available on the use of apps in the country. However, observation and anecdotal evidence from local sources inside and outside Syria, suggest a steady use of social/instant messaging apps, such as Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp and Telegram, with Whatsapp seeming by large the most used app, followed by Messenger. Besides these, there are several other apps that have proved successful in meeting needs for crucial information services and daily necessities. Makani (My Place), for instance, is a mapping mobile app that allows searching for business, services, and commercial activities, specially designed for Syria.

Money is transferred through unofficial channels, either through the services of the traditional system of money exchanges known as hawwala or through money-transfer apps inspired to this customary practice, such as: Hawale, DagDag, Revolut. Those apps offering real time information about the conflict, with updated maps, newsfeeds, pictures, and videos are also fairly spread. These are: Liveuamap, Syria: Real Time War.

On another level, Gherbtna is an app designed to help Syrians newly arrived in Turkey to navigate this new and unfamiliar territory. It was launched in early 2014 and designed by Mujahid ‘Aqil, a computer programmer who is himself a Syrian refugee. The app offers newly arrived refugees help in bureaucratic procedures, job/housing opportunities, but also advice on health, education and other legal services.

Mujahid ‘Aqil launched another app in 2016, Tarjemly Live (Translate for me, in Arabic), available only in Turkey, which puts a live human translator on the other end of the phone, translating Turkish, Arabic, and English orally, or by text messages for a small fee. Souktel – a Palestinian NGO specialising in SMS services – in collaboration with the American Bar Association, offers Syrian refugees in Turkey an SMS-based legal advice centre. Users send their question via text messages, and backroom systems identify, analyse and sort the incoming queries so they can reach a lawyer with the right expertise who then responds.

Many Syrian children refugees who attend school face difficulties in learning, because they have endured long-term stress, or because they are being taught in a language they do not master. The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) has taken the initiative to develop two apps that can help Syrian children learn to read while playing: Feed the Monster and Antura and the Letters.