SMARTPHONES will form the basis of a three-year social inclusion project to promote cultural diversity in Europe, particularly among women. This is possible thanks to a £368,000 research grant from the European Commission to The Open University, which is a partner in the project led by Lucas Paletta of Joanneum Research in Austria. The project aims to improve integration, skills and local knowledge for immigrants living in European cities by literally placing crucial information at their fingertips.
As part of Mobile Assistance for Social Inclusion and Empowerment of Immigrants with Persuasive Technologies and Social Network Services (MASELTOV), a novel app-style program is being researched and developed, which will provide immigrants with quick and easy mobile assistance to answer their needs. Service users will be able to access important information about essential topics such as the healthcare system or transport services in the country they have moved to. The Open University team is contributing to services that will support migrants as they develop their knowledge and skills through everyday living and use of the mobile app.
A ‘social radar’ will offer exclusive enabling technology to help immigrants to locate people who speak their language, or people who are nearby who can assist them with their problems, while a navigation service will help people to find their way around unfamiliar surroundings. The app-style facility will assist with informal language learning via busuu.com, a free online community for learning languages, allowing people to network with other learners and access helpful materials. One of the project teams is also developing a game to encourage cultural learning in a fun way.
Professor Agnes Kukulska-Hulme from the Institute of Educational Technology is leading The Open University’s contribution. She said: “There is a technical and a social dimension to this project. The idea is to facilitate and foster local community building, raising consciousness and knowledge to help bridge cultural differences. We want to promote social inclusion and help people to integrate better in the community in which they are living. Through technology-mediated persuasion and social networking, we will offer support and help change attitudes and behaviours of migrant people living in Europe.
“The project will facilitate a massive social impact by increasing the cooperation and successful integration of millions of migrants living together with hundreds of millions of European citizens in the future.”
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