Webby for Good is a collaborative program formed by The Webby Awards and WP Engine to showcase Webby-recognized projects built to change the world.
What’s the elevator pitch for your project?
MigraCam is a smartphone app designed to help people living in immigrant communities notify their family members and friends if detained by law enforcement in an immigration raid or traffic stop. MigraCam works by recording these types of incidents and streaming them live to a list of emergency contacts. The app is available in English and Spanish at no cost on Android and iOS devices.
What was the impetus for this project? What real-world challenge were you trying to solve?
After Texas passed one of the most draconian anti-immigrant laws in the country, we knew that we needed to deploy a rapid-response tool. We needed an app to immediately notify family and friends if a person is detained or arrested. We turned to our technology partner – Quadrant 2 – which created what became MigraCam. Users are prompted to add the email addresses and phone numbers of three people they would want notified if they are swept up in an ICE raid or detained during a routine police stop. In our immigrant communities, these things can happen daily and could affect someone at any time.
Our “a-ha” moment was actually at the beginning of the process. ACLU Blue, which was designed by Quadrant 2 to record police interactions and share them publicly, inspired our solution. While MigraCam was specifically designed with immigrants in mind, we realized that any person who may come into contact with law enforcement could benefit from having this tool because it alerts emergency contacts.
Once you settled on your idea, what was your first step in moving it forward?
We worked closely with our technology partner, Quadrant 2, at the outset to develop the concept for our solution. We had successfully collaborated with them on another app, ACLU Blue, and keenly understood that their “bystander technology” app would be a good fit for serving immigrant communities. After they designed a prototype, I met with members of my team who work directly with affected community members near the U.S.-Mexico border to talk through interface and features of the app.
Was there a moment during the project where you ran into a hurdle; or faced a problem you didn’t know how to solve? Take us to this moment, what happened and what did you do next?
Did the real-world impact meet your expectations? Can you share an example?
It exceeded our expectations. MigraCam’s impact was immediate. While we launched the app in Texas, we soon saw downloads across the country. The app is designed to send secure messages to family and friends, so while we don't have defined examples of the immediate impact the app has had on families, our local engagement specialists—who train community members on how to use the app—regularly report the positive response community members have when they learn about MigraCam.
What technologies/media did you use to develop this project (AI, Social Media, WordPress, etc.)?
This app was built atop of Quadrant 2’s secure bystander video platform, which was made possible by native Android and iOS. It’s an angular-based backend, blending various Cloud services from Amazon and Google.
Was the tech/medium you chose crucial to conveying your message? If so, why?
The medium was the message. The immigrant community is mobile-based, even more so than the general population. We also made the app freely available to anyone, and across all platforms so that neither cost nor access would be a barrier.
How did this project defy your expectations?
We expected MigraCam to be useful, but it defied our expectations to see the app being used outside of Texas and in the sheer quantity of downloads. Our stakeholders also told us that the app educated them and provided the tools to be proactive. That's promising, and we believe its usage will keep growing as we continue to spread the word. Another expectation we didn't have is that community partners would embrace it and promote it the way that they have. In our next app update, users will see a filming best practices video added to the "Know Your Rights" section that was produced by our friends at Witness.org.
How will you use technology in future work to create inspiring, cutting-edge projects that also make a difference in people’s lives?
We are guided by our mission and are fortunate to have a technology partner in Quadrant 2 which shares our commitment to social justice. We are currently working on a new feature that allows the ACLU of Texas to send notifications to users based on their location. This will enable us to notify users of an ICE raid or a border checkpoint in their area, without triggering those outside of the perimeter. Speaking of cutting edge, we are excited to be in the midst of rolling out a chatbot with Q2 that will enable users to get real-time answers to questions about their rights, without having to search our website. Look for us to return to the Webbys in 2020!