DISCOVER HELSINKI: AUDIO BASED INFORMATION SERVICE FOR USERS WITH POOR READING AND WRITING SKILLS
Löydä Helsinki (“Discover Helsinki”) is a web application information service for users with poor reading and writing skills. It provides information on the City of Helsinki and its services in audio form. The application speaks Finnish, Arabic and Somali. Discover Helsinki does not contain any written text and using it does not require reading or writing skills.
The development of Discover Helsinki is funded by the European Social Fund ESF as part of KYKY II Project. Discover Helsinki is developed and coordinated by the KYKY II Team. KYKY II is an ESF funded project developing education and employment services for particularly vulnerable immigrant groups in risk of social exclusion in Helsinki.
The idea for Discover Helsinki came from two key observations in the previous KYKY project (2015-2017) funded by the European Social Fund ESF. KYKY developed integration services for immigrant parents outside work and education in Helsinki.
One, governments and administrations produce vast amounts of information and provide various services targeted towards immigrants and integration. Two, this information and services are difficult to access for vulnerable immigrant groups such as the KYKY target group. Many of the KYKY clients lacked comprehensive education and had poor language, reading and writing skills. They were mostly dependent on unverified, word-of-mouth information even regarding essential topics such as education and health care. These clients had very few tools for finding trustworthy information, accessing important services and contacting officials that could help them integrate into and become active members of Finnish society.
From there, KYKY identified the need for an audio-based information service. While person-to-person guidance is the most effective method of directing clients to services they need, independent access is extremely significant in facilitating successful integration. Access to current and verified information in one’s own language encourages taking the first steps towards finding education and employment and one’s own place in society.
Discover Helsinki was developed for this purpose. It serves as a tool for non-Finnish speaking and poorly reading residents in finding relevant information independently in their own terms. Discover Helsinki was designed in close contact with this target group.
Software for Discover Helsinki was developed by Finnish software developer Codento (See more at https://codento.com/). Discover Helsinki is based on open source software. It is available for free reuse and further development with exemptions concerning audio files, images and the visual outlook of Discover Helsinki.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF PREVIOUSLY AVAILABLE RESOURCES AND INCREASING THEIR ACCESSIBILITY
Discover Helsinki utilizes materials and information that are already produced and published by administrations but not easily accessible to citizens with poor reading skills. Most of the content on Discover Helsinki is sourced from the multilingual information webservice InfoFinland.fi. InfoFinland collects and provides important information for people interested in moving to Finland or who have already moved, such as information on Finnish society, work, education, health care and so on. InfoFinland also supports different officials in spreading information in multiple languages.
InfoFinland provides factual and verified information in the user’s own language. Materials and information on InfoFinland are available in 12 different languages. InfoFinland is published by the City of Helsinki.
This method of content creation is typically very cost and labour effective. The materials don’t need to be collected or verified and require relatively little modifications. Changes made are mostly related to language translation or modifying text into simplified language.
Discover Helsinki provides a new way of spreading important information relevant to immigrants and new foreign residents as well as a way of reaching an underserved group in risk of social exclusion. Discover Helsinki takes advantage of the vast amounts already available information and services related to immigration, integration, education and employment and makes it available to a previously unreached target group. Therefore, Discover Helsinki is part of pre-emptive, socially and economically significant work against social exclusion and marginalisation.
Discover Helsinki is a new tool supporting integration services. It facilitates integration by providing contacts between immigrants and officials and services, making it easier for immigrants to find the services they need and helps them take the first steps towards employment and education and active citizenship.
Discover Helsinki frees up administrative resources, when employees working with the target group do not have to use their time in supplying information that the application provides. Discover Helsinki supports the target group’s independence and activity, freeing up administrative resources needed in connecting immigrants with services and officials, such as social work. The application has positive effects in the user’s own life but also for their family and community. Besides city authorities, the application affects other organizations working with the target group from state government to non-governmental organizations.
EASY-TO-USE MOBILE APP
Discover Helsinki functions as a web application optimized for mobile use. It is based on the webpage www.loydahelsinki.fi. KYKY II Team chose a mobile-based solution as mobile phones and mobile applications are widely used even in groups with little education and reading skills. Discover Helsinki was designed in to be extremely user-friendly, especially towards its target group. It is useful to understand that users who are literate and used to absorbing written information tend to have a little more difficulty getting used to the app. On the other hand, feedback from target group users is that the application is easy to learn and use.
Discover Helsinki requires only a working network connection and device media sounds to be on. The user opens the app by navigating to www.loydahelsinki.fi by typing it into their browser (with assistance if needed) or Google searching “Löydä Helsinki” or “Loyda Helsinki”. Installing Discover Helsinki on the start screen of the user’s mobile phone is recommended for easier future use. Opening and installing the app is where most assistance is needed. However, instructing clients and users on how to find and install Discover Helsinki is quick and simple and takes roughly fifteen minutes.
The user navigates the application by pressing on icons with their finger and listening to audio instructions. Discover Helsinki is structured into a simple four-step hierarchy, where the user is begins with a wide theme of interest and is guided to a specific service provider. Navigating backwards on the hierarchy works by tapping on different Tabs or by tapping on the Back icon. First, the user chooses their preferred language on the Front Page by tapping on the language icons, and then proceeds to the Main Menu.
1. The Main Menu (Pink Tab) consists of ten (currently nine) broad themes for different types of information and services. These include Education, Employment, Health Services and so forth. Each theme is marked with an icon. The user can listen to the themes by pressing on the icons. Tapping on the icon navigates further to the second step in the hierarchy, Subject Menu (Green Tab).
2. In the Subject Menu, the user can choose from different subjects related to the main theme by first listening to them by pressing on the icons. Tapping the subject icon navigates further to the third step in the hierarchy, the Subject Submenu (Yellow Tab).
3. In this Submenu, the app presents services related to the user’s subject choice. These services are again marked with icons that the user can listen to. Tapping on the icons brings the user to the final step in the app hierarchy, Service Presentation (Orange Tab).
4. Here, the service and service providers related to the user’s subject of interest are explained. Service Presentation Tab also provides ways of contacting said service provider by telephoning them, looking for the service provider on Google Maps as well as links to the service provider’s homepage and to other webpages containing more detailed information (Usually InfoFinland.fi).
DISCOVER HELSINKI OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE
Discover Helsinki open source software is licensed under license model is GNU GPL 3.0. Therefore Discover Helsinki software may be freely copied into use and developed further. The visual outlook of Discover Helsinki, audio files used in Discover Helsinki or images used are not available for reuse.
Discover Helsinki software is hosted here.
Discover Helsinki was developed with sharing and reuse purposes in mind from the beginning. Part of the development of Discover Helsinki was assembling a user friendly and detailed Discover Helsinki Administrator’s Manual (currently available only in Finnish). The manual describes the history and development process of the project, provides instructions on how to maintain and update the Discover Helsinki application AND provides budget and cost estimates (based on experiences in the current development process) for
a) Maintaining a ready-for-use information service such as Discover Helsinki, or
b) Developing and implementing a similar information service based on the Discover Helsinki software.
BASED ON SIMPLE TECHNOLOGY
Architecturally the Discover Helsinki system is flat, just an S3 bucket that serves a Vue.js application that fetches the rest of the needed data from (a) bucket(s) such as sounds and images. The Vue.js is also a simply structured: basic components with isolated services and a recursive navigation. The application is not reliant on other services besides S3 buckets.