Refugees and Connectivity

About this portal:

The current refugee crisis is the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenge. Over 60 million people around the world are displaced, over 21 million of them refugees – the highest number in a generation. War, persecution and crises are currently displacing over 33,000 people per day – around half of them children. Almost all of them face years of displacement. These numbers are projected to increase in coming years, making this both a growing and long-term problem that will not be resolved for many years to come.

This refugee crisis is, however, different from those that preceded it: this is the first mass displacement of the digital age. From refugees arriving in Europe and asking for WiFi to the growing use of digital money as a way of distributing cash assistance, mobile and digital technology are front and centre stage both of this crisis and of the response. Refugees prize their phones beyond almost any other possession, asking for connectivity as a form of basic assistance on a par with water, food and shelter, while humanitarians are starting to explore new ways of delivering help. These phenomena are creating a demand for mobile network operators to step into new roles: as essential partners in response, providers of services for populations on the move, and humanitarian responders in their own right. Mobile phones are increasingly a central tool in helping refugees find safety, and in the difficult task of navigating their new homes.

The industry is rising to the challenge. This portal draws together examples of refugee-focused initiatives utilising mobile technology which are being undertaken by mobile network operators, non-governmental organisations and civil society groups By beginning the work of capturing the range of existing initiatives and showcasing positive impact that the mobile industry can have on refugees, and to begin to draw together the wide range of ongoing initiatives into a common space, creating a starting point for this industry-wide conversation and a resource for those seeking to implement similar initiatives.

About the GSMA Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation (M4H) Programme:

Our mission is to accelerate the delivery and impact of digital humanitarian assistance. This will be achieved by building a learning and research agenda to inform the future of digital humanitarian response, catalysing partnerships and innovation for new digital humanitarian services, advocating for enabling policy environments, monitoring and evaluating performance, disseminating insights and profiling achievements. M4H marks an evolution and expansion of the GSMA’s disaster response work. The programme is supported by the UK Department for International Development.

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