Tech ventures are leveraging their expertise in remote work, software development, and data-driven habits to create solutions to eliminate the negative impact of the devastating earthquakes that struck southeastern region.
Türkiye is relying on technology companies as it tries to cope with big challenges from the recent earthquakes that flattened a swathe of towns and cities in its southeastern region, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless.
The startup ecosystem is engaged in efforts to address the problems that require rapid solutions, spearheaded by shelter, employment and education.
The massive Feb. 6 quakes, centered in southern Kahramanmaraş province, have left at least 41,156 people killed in Türkiye. Authorities said more than 110,000 buildings across 11 quake-hit provinces were either destroyed or so severely damaged that they need to be torn down.
Various organizations and companies have come forward to provide support and solutions to the affected communities.
The real estate websites emlakJet, sahibinden.com and hepsiemlak have undertaken a role to serve as a bridge and receive housing-related applications to help cope with issues regarding accommodation. On the other hand, the online recruitment platform kariyer.net is addressing employment and efforts to guide job seekers and volunteers.
Startups in the technology industry have been exploring remote work opportunities and data-driven solutions to address employment needs that have arisen in the aftermath of the earthquakes.
Meanwhile, small businesses in the affected areas have turned to electronic marketplaces to sell their products, and consumers are being encouraged to shop with local farmers and tradespeople to support and help revive the region’s economy.
The government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), firms and civil society groups have also been active in efforts to help the affected communities, including finding alternative production facilities and providing training opportunities for workers.
The Ministry of Industry and Technology, Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye (TÜBİTAK), the Small and Medium Enterprises Development and Support Administration (KOSGEB) and Technoparks are promoting the benefits of remote work, while chambers of commerce in heavily impacted cities are working together to revive trade. Furthermore, idle factories and workshops are being made available to provide alternatives for production.
Software and gaming sector
The ability to work remotely, combined with education, provides an opportunity for software and gaming startups to transform their existing workforce.
The work of the Open Software Network has also come under the spotlight, aimed at bringing together open-source programmers to develop software solutions to support earthquake relief efforts.
The platform aims to provide significant contributions in terms of human resources.
Elaborating on the Open Software Network on his personal blog, technical generalist Eser Özvataf summarizes the contributions of 23,950 developers to the platform.
"We first started with afetharita.com. As new ideas came in, we evaluated the projects that came in like an open-source software foundation (Apache Foundation, CloudNative Computing Foundation, Free Software Foundation, Linux Foundation, Mozilla Foundation, etc.), and tried to form volunteer teams to overcome obstacles in their progress,” Özvataf noted.
“We are working on a project list, and our internal processes will be much more organized in the near future. However, for now, you can view the "ready-to-publish" projects at https://afet.org/,” he added.
Support for shelter problem
Shelter has been one of the most significant issues as the earthquakes left hundreds of thousands of people homeless in the middle of winter.
To address this, the “Evim Yuvan Olsun” (Let my home be your home) campaign has been launched to help earthquake victims by matching them with empty or unused homes that have been made available by the public.
People can offer their homes to earthquake victims free of charge or at reduced rental rates. Applications can be made via the campaign's website, which has been set up to provide a reliable and secure application process.
People willing to open their empty houses to quake survivors can send applications that will be examined on-site by respective district governor’s offices.
Real estate initiatives
Real estate initiatives have stepped up to support the "Evim Yuvam Olsun" campaign, with sahibinden.com, emlakjet and hepsiemlak joining as project partners.
A statement said the campaign was launched to provide housing solutions for citizens affected by the Kahramanmaraş-centered earthquakes.
It provides a platform for generous citizens to offer their homes free of charge or at a discounted price to those in need.
“We know that there are citizens who want to open their unused houses and accommodate earthquake victims all over our country. Therefore, we are implementing a system that our generous people can offer their homes to those in need free of charge or at a discounted price with a reliable application,” the statement said.
“We also offer the opportunity to provide shelter support to earthquake victims through cash donations for citizens who do not have the opportunity to allocate a house. In this way, we make accommodation opportunities available to those affected by the earthquake,” it added.
Unused houses for survivors
Those who wish to participate in the campaign with their homes must make a commitment of at least three months, which can be extended to up to a year. Those who want to rent their homes at a discounted rate are required to open their homes for a year.
Applications are carefully reviewed by the district governorship, and homeowners must sign a loan agreement with the authorities.
Once approved, the earthquake victim families are placed in the homes, and the determined rental fee is covered by donations collected in the account of the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).
In addition to offering free housing, the campaign also encourages citizens to provide cash rental assistance to earthquake survivors.
Moreover, insurance is also provided to secure the residences of citizens who open their homes to the survivors. The insurance premiums are covered by Türkiye Insurance and provide coverage for one year up to TL 25,000 against risks to the items in the house, the building and its integral installations.
The "Evim Yuvan Olsun" campaign thus provides a ground for citizens to unite and support those affected by the disaster. Whether by offering an empty house, providing rental assistance, or making a cash donation to the relevant donation account of AFAD, there are many ways to get involved and make a difference.
Content suitable for remote education
Meanwhile, MentalUP, a Turkish gamified education platform, continues to expand its services to new markets and features content that is suitable for earthquake survivors' remote education needs.
Co-owned by Türk Telekom through its corporate venture capital company, TT Ventures, the digital education platform reached 5 million new users in 15 different countries in 2022, as it continues to strive toward being recognized as one of the most successful education startups.
In addition, the company has added a new module called “Event Center” to its product portfolio. It offers children an opportunity to participate in up-to-date activities and competitions while improving their mental skills, such as attention and memory, through brain games and fitness exercises.
The platform managed to add new to the markets it served in 2022 and contributed to children’s learning while having fun, provides solutions for distance learning and is able to support education for earthquake victims.
Muhammed Özhan, general manager of TT Ventures, stated that MentalUP’s user base is increasing daily and that they have started serving 5 million new users in 15 different countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada and the U.K.
“We are proud to support initiatives of the startup, which Türk Telekom supported through its PİLOT program in 2016 and then became a partner with TT Ventures, and its initiatives that make a difference in education,” said Özhan.
Event Center module
The co-founder of MentalUP, Emre Özgündüz, stated that their goal is to reach 30 million users by the end of 2023, through growth efforts in different markets and an expansion into African and Central European countries.
“In 2022, our application achieved remarkable success in the domestic market, becoming one of the most widely used in our demographic. We focused on growth efforts in different markets in 2022 with the aim of opening up our experiences in the Turkish market to global markets,” said Özgündüz.
“This resulted in the acquisition of 5 million additional users globally, bringing our total user base to 15 million. Our objective is to continue this trend of growth, with a focus on expanding into African and Central European countries. By the end of 2023, we aim to reach a total of 30 million users worldwide,” he noted.
The leading gamified education platform aimed at enhancing the mental abilities of children aged 4-13, MentalUP has introduced its new module, the “Event Center.”
This module offers a comprehensive learning experience with a wide range of games and animations-based exercises aimed at improving children’s physical and mental well-being. With over 150 games and 210 fitness exercises, the Event Center provides children with an engaging platform to learn and compete with each other, with over 500,000 children having participated in events held within the module so far.
MentalUP has gained widespread popularity and recognition, being ranked among the top 10 most downloaded apps in the 6-8 Age Children Category on the Apple App Store in the United States. info: (Daily sabah)
In recognition of its efforts to promote technology in the sports field, its “MentalUP Fitness for Kids” project has earned a top 10 ranking in the “BiGG Sports Awards,” which was organized by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye (TÜBİTAK) and the Ministry of Youth and Sports.