Web­site code cracker comes to refugees’ aid

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY MICHAEL MO­RAN

TWO YEARS ago, Finch­ley teenager Joshua Brow­der cre­ated a web­site called donotpay.co.uk. The site, which sim­pli­fied the process of con­test­ing park­ing tick­ets, was a huge hit with mo­torists and gar­nered acres of press coverage — in­clud­ing an ar­ti­cle in the JC.

Mr Brow­der went on to mod­ify the web­site’s core com­puter code to cover var­i­ous other le­gal is­sues, such as help­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple ap­ply for emer­gency hous­ing, and deal­ing with PPI claims.

Now his cod­ing skill is back in the news. He has de­vised an au­to­mated “chat­bot” which uses Face­book’s mes­sag­ing sys­tem to talk refugees ar­riv­ing in the US and Canada through the process of fill­ing in an im­mi­gra­tion ap­pli­ca­tion.

For UK ar­rivals, it helps them ap­ply for asy­lum sup­port.

Mr Brow­der told the Guardian: “I’ve been try­ing to launch this for about six months — I ini­tially wanted to do it in the sum­mer. But I wanted to make sure I got it right be­cause it’s such a com­pli­cated is­sue. That took months and months of work.”

With Don­ald Trump’s re­vised presidential ex­ec­u­tive or­der sus­pend­ing the US refugee pro­gramme for 120 days and adding more uncer­tainty for refugees seek­ing a new home in the US, the in­no­va­tion could hardly be more timely.

The original donotpay site was launched as a free ser­vice and has seen over 160,000 park­ing fines over­turned. Mr Broder’s home­less­ness bot has had more than 3,000 users, with over 240,000 mes­sages pro­cessed. The Finch­ley United Sy­n­a­gogue mem­ber al­ready has plans for fur­ther in­no­va­tions.

He told the JC: “I have so many ex­cit­ing plans com­ing up, in­clud­ing ben­e­fits, pen­sions and di­vorce.

“I think that there are so many lawyers charg­ing hun­dreds of pounds for do­ing very lit­tle.”

Joshua Brow­der

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