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. Frequently, different kinds of information (i.e. latest news, currency rates etc) circulate on informal closed Whatsapp/Messenger/Telegram groups rather than through specific apps. Even if there are several other apps that have met the needs for crucial information services and daily necessities (Makani , for instance, is a mapping mobile app that allows searching for business, services, and commercial activities, specially designed for Syria; money-transfer apps inspired to hawwala practice, such as: Hawale, DagDag, Revolut; Liveuamap, Syria: Real Time War) Syrians generally use Whatsapp/Messenger/ Telegram groups to obtain these services and information .

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. In December 2018, Atif Javed, who comes from a refugee family, and Aziz Alghunaim launched Tarjimly, an app addressing migrants (or people working with them) all around the world that need a translator or interpreter: the app searches in its database the best available volunteer with the requested language skills. 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.

At the end of 2019, the Syrian Council of Ministers announced that it would adopt the use of the electronic payment system in the first quarter of 2020, so that Syrians would be able to pay utility and telephone bills, traffic tickets, and taxes over the Internet through mobile apps. The state-owned Syrian Electronic Payments Company in coordination with the relevant ministries and the Syrian Central Bank is the body in charge of implementing the system. However, according to sources in the country, in mid-2020 some services were active only through a few private banks in Damascus and its surroundings and the entire project was postponed to 2021.