WELCOME’s expected impact
It is to be expected that WELCOME will have a significant impact in a number of sectors, which are briefly outlined below.
Quality of the TCN reception and integration practices: WELCOME has shown that the use of intelligent multilingual agent-driven and immersive technologies has a great benefit for TCNs and the public administrations / NGOs alike. For the TCNs, they imply, for instance: (i) a more independent, personalized completion of administrative procedures under competent guidance, without any pressure; (ii) direct access to highly relevant information such as, e.g., health or legal services, or documentation homologation, (iii) gamified acquisition of host country-specific information (such as, e.g., its geography); (iv) intuitive immersion into cultural and social contexts of the host country and simultaneous situation-bound language learning; and (v) coaching for more confident and targeted interaction with public administrations and preparation for job applications.
The multilinguality of its agent-driven interaction technologies is another impact factor of WELCOME.
The decision to address selected high priority needs of the TCNs in terms of topic-specific scenarios proved to be correct. This allowed the Consortium to achieve a higher maturity for specific applications and thus a higher satisfaction among the users than would have been possible in the case of a more breadth-oriented approach.
WELCOME’s example is thus apt to serve as an inspiration and blueprint for future practices in TCN reception and integration, which shows its impact potential.
Efficiency of public administrations to manage TCN reception / integration:
The massive use of intelligent agent-driven and immersive technologies on the practices of TCN reception and integration also impacts the efficiency of the public administrations and NGOs (in short, the stakeholders) to manage TCN reception and integration: It demonstrates how less dedication to routine explanations and guidance, and more time for personal assistance in more complex cases of vulnerable / traumatized individuals can be achieved, including an additional increase of the quality of the services and higher satisfaction of the users.
In addition to the impact achieved through the support of the stakeholders via services that target TCNs, WELCOME impacts the work of the stakeholders in terms of services that target them directly. These are the decision support services that are based on Visual Analytics. The VA-based decision support services facilitate correlation and visualization of TCN-data maintained by the stakeholders, which allows for a global view on all available data for groups of TCNs and thus for more reasoned and foresightful decisions. WELCOME’s VA Component (VAC) can be installed locally on the servers of the stakeholders, without that additional data security measures need to be taken.
The “Teacher Panel” as realized in the WELCOME Platform is another example of how analytics technologies can impact, in this case, the work of the language instructor personnel by supporting them in grouping students with a similar language competence into working groups. In view of the fact that language courses build a central block of the TCN integration procedures in all host countries, the impact can be considered as significant. Furthermore, we must be aware that the Teacher Panel is just one of many other supportive applications of this kind.
Societal (cultural and social) inclusion: The very positive reaction of the TCNs and the stakeholders alike during the trials of the incremental versions of the WELCOME Platform prototypes have confirmed that the use of immersive (Virtual Reality-based) technologies to facilitate cultural and social inclusion of TCNs will be central in future applications that target this aspect of TCN integration. VR-based technologies enable TCNs to easily immerse into the social habits and societal mechanisms of the host country, especially when this inclusion is immersion is realized drawing upon gamification techniques. The impact of social inclusion gamification is further increased by incorporation of topic-specific language teaching activities, as done in WELCOME.
Gender and vulnerable individuals: The WELCOME Platform provides all instruments to address the needs of groups or individuals who may require particular attention because of their gender, vulnerability or other characteristics. At the beginning of each interaction with the user, it acquires their profile via which the gender, degree of vulnerability, or any other pertinent features can be identified. Its immersive setups and agent-driven interaction technologies are suitable for personalized interaction and profile-oriented attention. An example of such personalized attention is one of the realized immersive scenarios which offers information specifically for single women among the TCNs in Greece. The provision of such services also greatly contributes to the fulfilment of the European regulations on equality and protection of vulnerable individuals.
Policy making: WELCOME facilitates the enhancement of the interaction between public administrations and TCNs, support the work of European public administrations and the Third Sector related to the reception and integration of TCNs, and has the potential to improve and accelerate the processes of reception and integration. WELCOME also clearly identifies the range of personal data of the participating parties that intelligent interaction support requires. We expect that the use of new technologies to improve TCN reception and integration as demonstrated in WELCOME will prompt rule makers to clarify what is and what is not acceptable to citizens and help design stronger measures.
An additional important impact on the European policy making achieved by WELCOME in collaboration with the other five H2020 on migrant reception and integration (MIICT, REBUILD, NADINE, MICADO, and easyRights) are the production of the White Paper, which summarizes their experiences and recommendations to the European Commission on ICT-enabled integration of migrants, and of the Handbook of the service design and supply for migrant integration; both are the outcome of the round table sessions in which UPF and PRAKSIS acted as representatives of WELCOME. The positive role of these publications in the definition of future policies on migration has already been acknowledged by the European Commission.
Economy: The Project carried out an economic impact assessment of the WELCOME Platform as a whole as well as of its individual technologies and identified the possibilities for their commercial exploitation (cf. D10.7). A significant economic impact of WELCOME is evident in four different sectors: (a) public administration sector related to the management of TCN reception and integration; (b) educational sector; (c) tourism sector; and (d) basic care sector. (i) Public administration sector costs related to TCN reception and integration are very high. Thus, Greece received from Europe since 2015 about 3.39 billion EUR as support in the context of migration and border management; Germany spent for TCN reception and integration in the years 2021 – 2023 60.7 billion EUR, with an estimation to spend further 48.2 billion EUR in the next three years. Spain supported between 2021 and 2023 a variety of programs related to migration with about 735 million EUR. With its immersive and agent-driven technologies outlined above, WELCOME will help reduce these costs considerably in that it will ameliorate and accelerate the reception and integration of TCNs. (ii) The educational sector (especially the branch specialized in language teaching to TCNs, but also other educational branches) is expected to experience strong impact by WELCOME technologies. WELCOME has been the first to demonstrate in various setups the beneficiary use of immersive and gamification technologies for language learning by migrants. It has also been the first to introduce a teacher panel to support language instructors in a more optimal grouping of students with comparable language competences, based on the assessment of their performance by VA. WELCOME will have an impact in (iii) the tourism sector in that its technologies can be used for realization of new experiences in terms of personalized virtual guided tours. Finally, already the KRISTINA project has shown that embodied conversation agents are very suitable for use in basic care as social companions of (elderly) persons. Given that WELCOME significantly enhanced the technologies developed in KRISTINA, a considerable impact can be expected.
Technology and innovation: WELCOME is already about to generate and will further generate technological and innovation impacts. The technological impacts can be expected from the WELCOME Platform, which integrates all necessary technologies needed to support intelligent interaction of users with embodied agents and in immersive environments, and from the visual analytics framework for in the context of TCN reception and integration public administrations / NGOs on the one side and teaching / coaching personnel on the other side. Furthermore, the extension of the spoken language datasets for Moroccan and Levantine Arabic, Catalan and Greek will have an impact especially on the performance of future language identification and automatic speech recognition technologies. The main innovative / scientific impacts are advances in the following areas: (i) conversational agent interaction planning: WELCOME proposed a novel interaction planning approach which combines agent planning with conventional dialogue management strategies; (ii) machine translation: WELCOME developed advanced machine translation models from and to less-resourced languages such as Darija and Levantine Arabic and improved the performance of translation from and to Modern Standard Arabic; (iii) robust semantic language analysis and knowledge representation : WELCOME developed a language processing pipeline that incorporates all modules necessary for comprehensive user utterance understanding and the projection of the output onto ontological structures; (iv) e-education: as repeatedly pointed out above, the gamification and VR technologies for language learning and social and cultural education / inclusion are among the main achievements of WELCOME.