Blog Post

Smartphone apps for migration and settlement in Canada - the current landscape

By: Marco Campana
January 23, 2022

For a few years now I've been tracking interesting digital programs/projects in the Canadian immigrant and refugee-serving sector. Among those are smartphone apps. A growing number have emerged over the years and I wanted to share them here. This is a list of Canadian-specific apps. You can find international efforts on the Basefugees site (requires a free account).

I'm sure I'm missing some, including multilingual apps and those created by newomers themselves. Let me know if you have one to suggest, or add it here. Thanks.

My take on these apps is that some are better than others. It's an emerging market that shouldn't be divorced from other content and information efforts. But in some cases the apps are standalone, not connected to those efforts. And I think that's a mistake. They may be useful as proof-of-concept developments, but we need to make sure that the entire information and content landscape is connected. I spent some time on that in my presentation about creating a collaborative and seamless settlement journey. That doesn't always happen when it comes to apps.

And I think that's a problem.

We should be creating useful information with interoperable technology, so it can be shared on any platform, channel, and device. For example, any app that curates and maintains its own database of organizational and project/service listings is wasting its time, money, resources, and duplicating efforts. There should be collaboration with 211 service providers to access their open data to incorporate into the app.

We need to delve into this smartly. And follow newcomer information and technology practices to ensure that the development we invest in is smart and has impact. Europe is a good place to look, where much app and smartphone development happened since the vast migration influx in 2015. At least one Austrian study should give us pause:

"Smartphones became a key tool in several areas of the participants’ lives and helped them in coping with everyday challenges. Researchers asked the interviewees to name their five most important apps. Most often named were Facebook, WhatsApp, qando Wien [Viennese public transport app], Google Maps, and Google Translate. Of all the about 90 different apps and functions mentioned in the data, none had been specifically designed for immigrants or refugees. This is in stark contrast to the heavily mediatized prevalence of apps-for-refugees and apps-for-Syrian-refugees – a Google search in January 2018 pro- vided half-a-million results for both phrases."

And one from Ottawa as well that suggests the importance of social media as a tool used for settlement, and how service providers should be meeting Newcomers in these spaces: "Findings point to the potential benefits of using ICTs and social media to complement, develop and consolidate the provision of resettlement services. For example, settlement agencies can make use of social groups on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram to disseminate essential information to refugees regarding services and resources, while also following up after face-to-face services on an individual basis. With this in mind, policy makers should take into account refugees’ usage of ICTs and social media as means to communicate and transmit information when designing and implementing resettlement initiatives."

Am I suggesting that we shouldn't be developing apps? Not quite. Only that they need to be developed critically, on the continuum and suite of technology and information solutions for Newcomers.

I haven't done an extensive test of any of these apps, so they're presented here simply as information or data, and in one place to try to keep tabs on these developments. But, I know in some cases, the app more or less follows what I suggest above, acting as a vessel for existing informational content and 211 organization data, providing it in a different format, with a different presentation. And I think that's both useful and what we should be aspiring to. I'll leave it to you to test them out.

I'm including install/download stats for the Android versions of apps. The Apple App Store doesn't make downloads readily available. It would be useful to have those stats. But this is an important metric of an apps success. As is the user/phone data being collected. This is important to pay attention to. It's an important topic that Josephine Goube of Techfugees raised in my interview with her some years ago. Too many apps collect user/phone data for data's sake, not because they actually need it to make the app work. In some cases it's because they want to market or resell that data. Privacy, security, and confidentiality should be a key metric our sector should aspire to when it comes to data and Newcomer information.

For each app I'm simply including text from their website or app store description. I would encourage every app creator to publish all install and use metrics and justify why they might be tracking any data that is unnecessary to actually make the app work.

The apps are in no particular order. I hope you find this useful.

NewTo - Toronto Newcomer App - Toronto North LIP

Toronto North Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) is a multi-sectoral planning table that bring a cross-section of stakeholders together to identify ways in which to support settlement and integration of immigrants into local communities. The project is funded by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The TNLIP Council is comprised of over 40 organizations that offer settlement, employment, health, legal and many other services. To learn more please visit: www.torontonorthlip.ca

In partnership with 24/7 Labs we developed this mobile application that we hope would allow all newcomers to Toronto to successfully settle in our beautiful and welcoming city. Using the app you can find free employment, language, housing, health and other services with a click; select services near you; find professionals that speak your language.

100+ installs on Android.

They appear to have a newer version of the app under development.

Arrival Advisor - PeaceGeeks

New to Manitoba? New to British Columbia?
Arrival Advisor is your trusted companion: from your first day in Canada to when you feel comfortably settled and at home. Whether you’re looking for work, learning English, or connecting with your community, Arrival Advisor is here to help you succeed. Easily find all the information and services you need—in your language and personalized for you.

Arrival Advisor in Manitoba is available in English and French.Arrival Advisor in B.C. is available in English, French, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Korean, Punjabi, and Tagalog!

• Get reliable and up-to-date information for newcomers, no matter where you are. Topic areas include: Settling In, Employment, Health Care, Money & Banking, Housing, Legal System & Immigration, Education, Driving, and Help for Individuals & Families. The newcomer topics are saved to your phone so you can view the information even without the Internet.

• Find services nearby that can help you. Arrival Advisor is compatible with Maps, so you can easily navigate to service provider locations. Bookmark services to view them without the Internet, too!

• Get recommendations based on your situation. By answering our questionnaire, you’ll get tailored information and services based on your needs.

• Keep track of what you need to do. You can build a personal plan by bookmarking important topics that will help you navigate your settlement journey step-by-step.

Arrival Advisor is anonymous. No account needed to use the app. We never keep or share your personal data with third parties. You can delete the information you save to the app at any time.

Arrival Advisor in Manitoba is created for Manitoba Start https://manitobastart.com/ by PeaceGeeks in collaboration with MB211.

Arrival Advisor in British Columbia is created by PeaceGeeks in partnership with settlement organizations in Metro Vancouver, as well as immigrants and refugees like you. This app is possible thanks to funding by the Province of British Columbia and Google.org Canada in partnership with LEAP | Pecaut Centre for Social Impact and Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada.

1,000+ installs on Android

Welcome to Alberta app - Immigrant Services Calgary

Welcome to Alberta is a settlement mobile app designed to help immigrants and refugees to achieve a smooth and successful transition into their life in Canada.

The mobile app will help newcomers to be able to access information on immigrating to Canada in a centralized fashion.

Currently it features the following, but will be updated with additional information and translated into different languages in the near future. It currently features three different categories:

1. To - do list: Welcome to Alberta has prepared a list of things to do for immigrants who are: Pre-arrival, 2 weeks after arrival and 2 months after arrival. These to-do lists include important things to prepare or do when arriving in Canada. The to-do lists also feature an option for everyone to add in their own to-do items.

2. Overview of Canada and Alberta: Another aspect of the mobile app is an overview of Canada and Alberta. In this section, you are able to find general facts about Canada and Alberta.

3. Current important information: Welcome to Alberta also hosts current important information in a centralized manner. These categories will include phone numbers, addresses and up to date information about topics that are geared towards newcomers.

Categories include:
a. Important documents
b. Finding a place to live
c. Healthcare
d. Finances
e. Employment
f. Education
g. Language
h. Benefit

1,000+ installs on Android

Welcome to Saskatchewan - International Women of Saskatoon (IWS)

Note: This app appears to be a replication of the Welcome to Alberta app, built by Immigrant Services Calgary.

Welcome to Saskatchewan is a settlement mobile app designed to help immigrants and refugees to achieve a smooth and successful transition into their life in Canada.

The mobile app will help newcomers to be able to access information on immigrating to Canada in a centralized fashion.

Currently it features the following, but will be updated with additional information and translated into different languages in the near future.

1. To - do list: Welcome to Saskatchewan has prepared a list of things to do for immigrants who are: Pre-arrival, 1-2 weeks after arrival and 3-8 weeks after arrival. These to-do lists include important things to prepare or do when arriving in Canada.

2. Overview of Canada and Saskatchewan: Another aspect of the mobile app is an overview of Canada and Saskatchewan. In this section, you are able to find general facts about Canada and Saskatchewan.

3. Current important information: Welcome to Saskatchewan also hosts current important information in a centralized manner. These categories will include phone numbers, web addresses and up to date information about topics that are geared towards newcomers.

Categories include:
a. Citizenship
b. Housing
c. Health care
d. Personal Finance
e. Employment
f. Education
g. Language
h. Benefits

1,000+ installs on Android

PointB - YMCA of Hamilton|Burlington|Brantford Immigrant Services

Note: This app is a bit different from others. It's an organization-specific service app. An attempt to bring clients into the org's app service environment rather than serving them through WhatsApp, etc.

PointB provides information, resources and online support to newcomers to Canada as part of the YMCA Immigrant Services program. Use is by invitation by the YMCA of Hamilton|Burlington|Brantford Immigrant Services.

100+ installs on Android

O-Canada (Orientation-Canada)

The O-Canada App is the United Nations Migration Agency’s digital tool for refugees selected for resettlement to Canada. It aims to empower refugees to transition and become active members of Canadian society. A learning tool for refugees selected for resettlement to Canada that provides relevant and accurate information. Refugees can learn anytime, anywhere about Canada, supports and services available there and much more.

Since 1998, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been providing pre-departure orientation to selected refugees resettling to Canada through the Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA) programme. This tool will benefit refugees in circumstances where IOM is not able to provide in-person COA and will complement in-person COA. Reinforcing IOM’s cross-cutting theme of promoting safe and informed migration, the app provides relevant, accurate and targeted information on with the objective of increasing the integration outcomes of refugees once in Canada.

The app is currently available in English and will later be available in other languages including French, Spanish, Arabic, Dari, Kiswahili, Somali, and Tigrinya.

When a user downloads the app, their privacy is ensured as the only information collected is a username. The O-Canada App, which can be accessed offline, can be downloaded for free.

Funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

1000+ installs on Android.

Ghurba Inc.

Note: the text below is an automatic translation of the text on the Google Play Store (from Arabic to English) and therefore is likely to contain translation errors.

A social service platform provides useful information in Arabic in various fields of health, transportation and housing, education and employment for the residents of the State of Canada's newcomers and veterans of immigrants.

This platform is a bridge of communication between the newcomers or visitors with veterans of immigrant business owners, companies and professionals, experienced in the country, they underestimate their affairs of everyday life and help them adapt to their new country.

Therefore we have this creates a weird business guide is the first of its kind in Canada and the Western world, which includes more than four thousand companies and members of Arab organizations in various fields, such as doctors, lawyers, advisers immigration, contractors, real estate agents and mortgage and retail outlets and the sale of meat, in addition to community-based organizations and associations concerned with services the new arrivals of immigrants throughout Canada.

We have been careful while we collect this information at the highest degree of accuracy and credibility and to provide it to you in an organized manner, including communication with these companies or individuals information in addition to the addresses and working hours. We have also added property valuation to benefit users of this application from the previous experiences of people with such a wide range of companies and individuals.

With this application you will be able to:

• Quickly and easily search for companies and professionals Arabs, and get to communicate with any of them information as well as the ability to share this information with others
• Add your assessment of companies and services that are within the Weird guide
• access to basic guidance information for the area where you live, such as health insurance, housing, education, transportation and work translated into Arabic

We have made the State of Canada starting point for this project being of the population of this great country, which has always attracted thousands of Arab immigrants, and we hope very soon that we can be in all the Diaspora from Mushargaha to the west to provide our services to the Arabs wherever they are.

Finally, we hope and we wish to communicate your cooperation with us to express their opinion and advice anything you deem inappropriate or need to be corrected in this application Froakm and suggestions are the foundations of the construction of this project, which worked by a team of the finest Arab programmers.

10,000+ installs on Android

HelpSeeker

Note: not specifically a settlement app, but one that replicates 211 data/organizational information services and is therefore relevant for our sector and Newcomers.

How we help users:
If you’re experiencing a difficult life situation, we can help you find the most relevant support closest to you. Sort through resources and programs by combining filters such as: services (affordable housing, counseling, parenting), populations (youth, seniors, newcomers) and special focus (disabilities, mental health, addictions).

Find the help you need, fast.

How we help our service partners:
Our desire is to give people a quick and simple way of finding what they need. If you or your organization exists to help people through difficult life situations, please enroll at www.helpseeker.org. Our partnership programs range from free to paid listings based on the level of information you want to share.

Features:
· Location-based search for people looking for social help
· Filtering allows users to find the most relevant service
· No sign-up required for users, privacy is our priority
· Free sign-up for support organizations, paid premium listing available
· Currently focused on organizations in Alberta, Canada

5,000+ installs on Android

MNLCT Newcomer Support App - Mennonite New Life Centre

Note: Similar to PointB, this app is a bit different from others. It's an organization-specific service app. An attempt to bring clients into the org's app service environment rather than serving them through WhatsApp, etc.

Available in English, Arabic, Mandarin, and Spanish!
The MNLCT Newcomer Support App was developed in partnership with iCent – a platform for international students and newcomers – and is designed to provide virtual tools to better support immigrants and refugees who are settled or settling in Ontario.

Key features include:

  • COVID-19 updates regarding issues related to
    • settlement,
    • immigration,
    • legal rights,
    • employment,
    • mental health,
    • schooling
  • #AskMNLCT webinars can be viewed right from the app
  • Information on our programs and services and how we’re managing them online during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Trustworthy information on
    • settlement,
    • immigration,
    • legal rights,
    • employment,
    • health,
    • recreation,
    • the latest incidents affecting our communities

Upcoming features:

  • Register for upcoming workshops, events, and information sessions for our programs
  • Securely upload registration documents
  • Book appointments with our settlement and mental health teams
  • Live chat with staff

100,000+ installs on Android. However, this is misleading as it is the install metric for the iCent app itself, so hard to know how many MNLCT-specific installs there are.

ASCEND Mobile App - Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC BC)

ASCEND is an interactive employment readiness program that supports newcomers to identify, develop and demonstrate their soft skills for Canadian employers. ASCEND was developed by the Immigrant Employment Council of BC in partnership with Canadian employers and HR experts.

10+ installs on Android

CanSettle (Early Access) - Infinity88

CanSettle provides offline access to organizations that can help you settle in Canada. If you have just immigrated to Canada and need help this app will direct you to organizations that can help.

CanSettle also gives you access to a big checklist on what to do before you get to Canada and what to do once you are here.

Key Features:
Organization information is available offline for reference and to provide to transportation providers (e.g. taxi).
Organizations with verified addresses and names have a checkmark next to the address allowing you to quickly see where to go for help!
Business hours for many of the organizations for quick reference.
You can see what services are available, how far the organization is from your location and quickly call them or get directions.
You can also search all the organizations across the entire country by service, city and province if needed.

10+ installs on Android

Connector+ App - Halifax Partnership

Build your professional network and make connections with the official Connector Program app. Whether your career is just getting started or well underway, Connector+ will match you with experienced professionals in your field or new talent looking to build their network.
My career is just getting started
- Whether you are a soon-to-be graduate, a recent grad, or new immigrant to Nova Scotia, build your network with Connector Plus.
- Simply download and register for the Connector+ app
- Fill in your field of interest and background
- Get matched with a business leader (Connector)
- Meet with your Connector for a quick coffee
- Connect with three more people in their network
My career is well underway
- Whether you only have a couple years of experience or are an experienced business executive, help new talent build their local network with Connector Plus
- Simply download and register for the Conntector+ app
- Fill in your industry experience and professional details
- Get matched with a Connectee to help build their network
- Meet with your Connectee for a quick coffee chat
- Refer them to three more people in your network
Whether you want to connect with a diverse talent pool, share your knowledge, or build your professional network - get started and download Connector+ today.

1,000+ installs on Android

ArriveON - COSTI Immigrant Services

ArriveON is a free, bilingual mobile app that helps newcomers in Ontario, Canada find information and services to navigate their settlement journey...

Note: I'm including this additional information from their enewsletter announcement. Why it isn't included on the app description page...

From finding a job or a place to live, to learning English or French or accessing health care, ArriveON has everything newcomers need to get started on their new community.

The information provided is based on the content of the O2O Workbook and grouped into six sections: Getting to Know Canada and Ontario, Living in your New Community, Education and Training, Working and Business, Money and Personal Finances, People and the Environment.

Each section has several topics that give information for the whole province. Users can explore these topics, bookmark the ones that are relevant to them, and find nearby programs and services using the geolocation feature without ever needing to create an account or disclose personal information. Furthermore, the information can be saved to the user’s device and accessed later on without an Internet connection.

Most sections have a Settlement Plan that summarizes the main settlement tasks, and some important questions under the heading Things to Think About. These questions help users think about the choices they need to make during their settlement process.

Designed by COSTI’s Orientation to Ontario (O2O) Program, and funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Province of Ontario, ArriveON also connects newcomers to the O2O Chatbot, relevant government websites and phone numbers, and the Welcome to Canada guide published by IRCC. It also allows users to call 911, 211, and ConnexOntario’s mental health services with just one click!

10+ on Android

N4 Network

N4 is a national network for the diversity of providers who assist newcomers in navigating the complex Canadian healthcare and social service systems. We provide opportunities for professional development, education, virtual discussions, networking, and the sharing of data and resources. We aim to promote best practices in the field of newcomer navigation, with the ultimate goal of improving the experience of newcomers to Canada. The app app provides access to N4 tools, resources and training anytime, anywhere. Apple/iOS version coming soon.

1+ install on Android

Other apps that might be of interest

Canadian Citizenship apps - Android

A list of apps in Google Play focused on helping newcomers prepare for the Citizenship Test.

Canadian Citizenship apps - Apple

A list of Canadian Citizenship prep apps in the Apple App Store.

Government of Canada mobile apps

85 mobile applications and pages to access Government of Canada information and services.

They also have an Apps Gallery that lists third-party mobile applications created using Government of Canada data.

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