GSMA Europe Mobile Meetings Series: Connecting displaced people: mobile ecosystems for refugees
On 6 April, GSMA Europe hosted a Mobile Meetings Series breakfast debate on Connecting displaced people: mobile ecosystems for refugees. Officials from UNHCR, UNICEF, Red Cross, industry representatives, academics and other participants discussed how mobile services can support migrants and facilitate their integration process in a new country.
Displaced people place extreme importance on their mobile phones. They not only connect migrants to family and friends back home, they help them locate local institutions, save documents, find housing and access information in native languages – all of which make the transition in a new place much easier.
At the breakfast debate, the discussion aimed to answer this question: What do associations involved in the current humanitarian emergency want from the mobile sector in order to help displaced people? Participants started by pointing out the critical role of connectivity in displaced people`s lives. Before they begin the journey to Europe, access to the Internet enables migrants to gather the right information from reliable sources and can help them avoid becoming victims of human trafficking. Migrants also need connectivity during their transit to find their way, and to communicate with friends and family. Upon arriving in the destination country, mobile apps can facilitate the integration process by providing access to administrative information, along with skills and language training.
Although mobile connectivity plays a critical role in the whole process, it is not always available to migrants for several reasons: They may face internment in detention centres, difficulty obtaining SIM cards, limited access to electricity, language barriers and other obstacles preventing them from accessing mobile technology services in Europe. Consequently, migrants can be victims of an information imbalance. On one side, a vast range of useful information is provided to migrants by not-for-profit organisations and national governments. On the other side, these vulnerable people are not always able to access this information, understand English, and screen trustworthy sources so as to benefit from the information provided.
To overcome this imbalance, the mobile sector and the associations working in this field need to find synergies. Overall, participants agreed on the need for a bottom-up approach to guarantee accessibility and connectivity, to improve displaced people’s lives and simplify the integration process. Companies could also have a leading role in reducing the information imbalance by investing in technological support, developing solar technology to charge mobiles, making in-kind donations, creating targeted data plans for those facing crises, and facilitating the development of multi-lingual apps to provide trustworthy information to migrants.
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