Singapore is home to thousands of migrant workers originally from Bangladesh. When COVID-19 hit the island, officials there mandated lockdowns, forcing many of those workers to quarantine and no longer work.
At a time of unprecedented and extreme certainty, the ability to connect with loved ones became even more critical for the workers, but a variety of technical and logistical challenges made it difficult for the workers to reliably get in touch with their families and friends. Call Home leveraged Twilio products to make it possible.
Working and living away from home can be challenging even in the best of times. Toss in a global pandemic and the fear and uncertainty that comes along with it, and such an arrangement becomes overwhelming.
The migrant worker population in Singapore needed to connect, but many had family at home without access to Wi-Fi, nor could they afford data plans that would make calls with WhatsApp or Viber possible. Landlines are often the only option, but getting prepaid calling cards at local stores became challenging due to quarantine orders, not to mention dangerous due to community spread of the virus.
An unlikely solution came by way of a Facebook and TikTok Techathon; a group of acquaintances entered together and originally developed an app to help isolated seniors with 3G smartphones communicate with loved ones. When they became aware of the predicament facing Singapore’s migrant worker population, though, they quickly pivoted to focus on that need.
To support the migrant workers, it was imperative that a cost-effective 3G solution be developed to enable them to call their families’ landline phones in Bangladesh. So the team partnered with Twilio to create an app called Call Home.
Twilio’s Programmable Voice solution had the right features to make the Call Home app easy to use and quick to launch. And because Twilio’s Programmable Voice solution enables low latency and clear audio capabilities, the migrant community has been reporting higher and more reliable call quality compared to the calls they had with prepaid cards. In addition to Twilio’s Programmable Voice solution, the Call Home team leverages Twilio’s Programmable SMS as an internal solution to help onboard migrant workers to the app.
To ensure the calls were cost-effective for the migrant workers, Twillio.org, the social impact arm of Twilio, provided a discounted rate that led to an overall 40-55 percent decrease in calling costs.
Since the launch in September, Call Home is already seeing migrant workers successfully spending more time talking to their families because the app is less expensive than their monthly pre-paid calling cards.
On average, workers are now able connect with their loved ones approximately 30 times more, which translates to about 75-100 minutes per week. Before Call Home, they would make only 1-2 calls per week at most, and now that they do not have to worry about high calling costs, they make multiple calls a day. Especially considering the challenges isolation can bring, these calls help keep the migrant workers feeling happier and less alone.
“The goal is to ensure that the workers are stress-free when making these calls to their families. They not only help them feel less lonely but they keep them tied to their purpose, which is to financially support their families back home,” said Gloria Chua, design lead and head of marketing for Call Home. “We’re heartened that this simple solution has brought comfort to so many of them in this difficult time.”
We're heartened that this simple solution has brought comfort to so many of them in this difficult time.
The team also partnered with the non-profit Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), to help support the most vulnerable migrant workers in Singapore. TWC2 identified the first 1,000 workers suffering from health-related issues or work injuries, or those seeking case work with TWC2 to resolve salary disputes. The first 1,000 workers were set to be onboarded by the end of 2020, with an additional ten thousand by the end of 2021.
As demand increases, Call Home might expand to other countries such as Indonesia or Myanmar, the team said, where a majority of the migrant workers’ families reside. And, they’re exploring using programmable SMS to automate and offer migrant workers tech support via chat. Twilio’s portfolio of solutions have given Call Home’s team the ability to create an ideal, seamless, and simple experience for all levels of communications—including for those who need it most.