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REBUILD - ICT-enabled integration facilitator and life rebuilding guidance

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - REBUILD (REBUILD - ICT-enabled integration facilitator and life rebuilding guidance)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2019-12-31

European Union is experiencing large migrant and refugee flows, both internal and external, due to the economic environment and socio-economic instability in the greater region, with large populations near or within war zones. To effectively manage the constant flows of migrants, national and local authorities and local communities need to efficiently address the challenges that emerge in the management and integration of people hosted in their regions.
REBUILD aims at integrating immigrants and refugees in Europe developing ICT-based solutions and technologies to enhance the efficiency level in managing the services provided by authorities and organization at local level, and therefore immigrants’ quality of life.
This objective will be achieved through the realization of an application (the Digital Companion) that will be used by immigrants and refugees and will assure them a better interaction among their community, enhanced communication with Local Service Providers (LSPs), and a more effective matching between the immigrants’ needs and the supply of services in the hosting countries.
Project results will be achieved through several specific objectives (SO):
- SO1 - Engage users (both migrants and local service providers) in research activities since the early stage of the project, in order to gather relevant information that will drive REBUILD Digital Companion design.
- SO2 - Develop Artificial Intelligence solutions to profile users in order to provide them personalized smart support through the Digital Companion;
- SO3 - Develop AI-based skills/needs matching services, supporting PAs and LSPs in the provision of relevant services to each user of the Digital Companion;
- SO4 - Integrate the technical components and deliver the Digital Companion supporting at least 10 different services;
- SO5 - Define and implement specific guidelines for data security of vulnerable groups that will use REBUILD Digital Companion (GDPR compliance);
- SO6 - Understand and address cultural and linguistic differences and barriers of the different populations foreseen as potential REBUILD Digital Companion users;
- SO7 - Analyze the socio-economic context and design a realistic plan assuring REBUILD solutions sustainability and up-scalability beyond the project lifetime.
REBUILD activities are structured in 3 phases along the 36 months of the project: Phase 1 (1st year) focused on the definition of user requirements and technical specifications; Phase 2 (next 14 months), focused on system development and continuous testing/design with users; and Phase 3 (last 10 months), aiming at system consolidation and piloting of the application with a larger amount of users.
Therefore, the first year of the project completed the activities under Phase 1.
The research and design methodology integrates methods and techniques from a broad range of disciplines, from ethnography and psychology applied to social sciences, to User-centered and Participatory design. Field data, collected through focus groups, interviews and questionnaires involving 217 migrants and 77 LSPs, have been used as input for the definition of a set of scenarios addressing REBUILD service and user experience as come from the requirements for the three pilot countries. Scenario-based design was used to explore the boundaries of the design space proposing innovative and creative solutions; by continuously comparing the results of WP1 and re-tuning the process, WP2 have iteratively refined the scenarios to progressively incorporate the creativity, innovation, educational and technical requirements developed in the project.
Three CoCreation Workshops (CCW) were organized in October 2019, in Bologna, Thessaloniki and Barcelona, involving participants from both the main target groups. CCWs were based on a participatory and inclusive design approach, fostering mutual learning, with the aim of leading project partners to the elaboration of the workshops’ findings into the next step of interface and interaction design. Service design aspect took into consideration three different levels of “service integration/provision” foreseen in REBUILD application: smart support to access to existing digital services provided directly by REBUILD partners; integration of digital services useful for the target groups; digitization of currently “analogical” services perceived as a need by research participants.
Findings gathered through CCWs were then elaborated, and produced Design Themes and Values and Prototype Scenarios that will drive the development of REBUILD Digital Companion and participatory design activities in the second and third years of the project (WP6).
REBUILD started also the technical development of ICT components that will be integrated in the Digital Companion, such as: AI-based user profiling, skills and needs matching for users against available services in their area, use case scenarios for technical development, initial draft of conversation trees for REBUILD chatbot, a conversational agent able to communicate in natural language with migrants and refugees using the app (WP3, WP4, WP5).
Furthermore, in the 1st year REBUILD developed: ethical and legal framework and guidelines for research activities and for technical development (WP7 and WP11) of REBUILD digital companion; REBUILD project brand, website, social media channels and dissemination plan and activities (WP8); socio-economic impact assessment methodology and initial research (WP9); and its project management methodology (WP10).
REBUILD foresees four main ambition fields in progressing beyond the state of the art:
1. Using AI for profiles, skills and needs matching - REBUILD’s solution will analyze different aspects of the migrants’ profiles aiming to learn the optimal mapping of skills and needs to the available infrastructure and regional characteristics.
2. Social inclusion and integration initiatives for migrants/refugees through ICT - REBUILD will improve ICT-based solutions designed for refugee integration providing to smart support for access to, and interaction and communication with, services providers.
3. Accessibility in ICT services for migrants/refugees - REBUILD will improve the current accessibility standards for web platforms and apps targeting migrants, introducing AI-based processes supporting the interaction of different user groups.
4. Participatory approaches - REBUILD creates an interconnected environment where the users and the stakeholders involved are supported in strengthening the integration policies and consolidating with effectiveness the results in medium and long term.
The expected impact of the project on society at large will be:
- More effective and satisfying inclusion process for migrants and refugees arriving in Europe, through a personalized digital guidance and a smart support in accessing relevant services;
- Effective and data-driven decision making and planning for Local Service Providers and Public Administrations, through specific dashboards that will help them analyzing migrants' usage of services and planning for future scenarios;
- Fact-based awareness for local European citizenship that will be informed through info-graphics and data visualization about migrants population in their regions.
This results will be achieved during the 2nd and 3rd years of the project, when REBUILD Digital Companion will be tested, deployed, piloted with real users communities in the three pilot regions.