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Inclusive society - 16.03.2023

A One-Stop-Shop for newcomers in Mechelen fosters inclusion
Twenty years ago, Mechelen was suffering from one of the highest criminality rates in Belgium. Polarisation and deprivation were skyrocketing. Many middle-class families had no choice but to leave. But little by little, as local authorities implemented inclusion policies, the situation started to evolve. Nowadays, the city is a vibrant symbol of inclusivity, with over 130 nationalities living in harmony. Innovative integration programmes are still being created, implemented and constantly improved. The “Welcome application” is one of them.

When the local authorities of Mechelen reviewed their tools supporting integration processes, they realised that people tend to use their smart phones more often, especially as they are on the move. It was then necessary to display information on a mobile-friendly platform. The Mechelen’s “Welcome App” was born.

With this smartphone app, newcomers can quickly find information about leisure, healthcare, housing, learning and social life in Mechelen. The information is provided in 9 different languages: Arabic, Dutch, English, French, Turkish, Ukrainian, Romanian, Russian, and Spanish. The app also displays a calendar with activities and a dictionary in which complicated words are explained. The app can easily be downloaded on the official website of the city of Mechelen.

With the support of the IncluCities project, the city identified an important issue that can affects the effectiveness of an app: outdated data. Indeed, as mobile apps can be tricky to manage, they sometimes tend to not be updated at all. Unfortunately, outdated information renders an app useless. Furthermore, adding new information manually is very time-consuming. These issues were resolved by developing an algorithm that simplifies the app updating process. As city’s employees upload new information on a spreadsheet, it is automatically added to the app. Thus, the information on the mobile App will always be up-to-date, coherent and available in all languages.

To download the app, go on Mechelen’s official website.
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