Abdul Rahman al-Ashraf, a young man who strongly believes in utilizing the power of technology to achieve peace and freedom, is the embodiment of the creativity and entrepreneurial spirits of many of the young people who fled Syria with the hope of finding new homes that would encourage them to be all that they can be.
Last month, the 27 year-old software engineer saw his hopes realized when he was awarded the title of European Youth digital champion for 2016 in the Austrian city of Graz after his project was selected as winner out of 167 of the best youth projects in the EU.
The European Youth Award (EYA) is an annual pan-European contest that motivates young people to produce socially-valuable digital projects. Al-Ashraf represented Germany, where he has been living for the past two years, in the contest.
While completing his Master Degree at the University of Applied Sciences in Stuttgart, al-Ashraf drew upon his own experiences during the war in Syria to assist him in developing new technology for his graduation project that could end up being a game changer for everyone living in a war zone.
Al-Ashraf’s technology, which he calls FreeCom, is a free communication tool that allows people to use their smart phones and other smart devices to stay connected and share information even when internet connections or mobile network signals are not available, or are deliberately cut off as is often the case in oppressed countries or countries at war.
In addition to developing a universally useful communication tool, al-Ashraf was able to convince the 16 international experts of the festival jury of the necessity and importance of his project.
Al-Ashraf says that FreeCom is an app for letting people communicate through text messages, calls, broadcast media and news even when no internet connection is available by utilizing secure encrypted connections where no third party can watch or control data.
The app uses every possible technology the smart device has to exchange data. It was developed mainly for countries having disasters like wars, or simply for places where no proper internet access is available.
Al-Ashraf says that the free service was initially created to help people in war zones or disaster areas to continue during the interruption of communication services and has now been expanded to include all the places that suffer from poor connections or weak internet such as train stations, underground tunnels or buildings and remote locations far from city centers.
He also believes that FreeCom while help build stronger communities since the whole idea of this project depends upon sharing resources and information and giving people who live in dangerous areas the easiest possible way to communicate and stay up to date.
The young IT engineer is currently working as an advisor to a software company that is a subsidiary of the German car manufacturer Porsche and is looking for true sponsors of the project.
Al-Ashraf also encourages other members of the IT community who believe in the idea of the project to work with him on a voluntary basis so that the research can be completed.