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A recent article in Devex reviewed the high rates of cell phone/smartphone use among refugees as they to try to maintain contact with family and friends as they make their journey to safer lands. They rely on messenger apps such as WhatsApp to update friends and family, and snap selfies with their phones’ cameras to show they are okay and where they are. The use of GPS and other apps alerts helping agencies to the most pressing needs and conditions.
Last year, SoukTel partnered with the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative to provide legal information to refugees in Turkey to help them advocate for their rights and entitlements.
The mobile information service aimed to tackle this challenge through simple text-message interactions accessible to any refugee with a mobile—be it a smartphone or a basic device. Syrians can send legal questions via SMS to a hotline at any time, with text messages received and analyzed through a secure analytics platform. After being sorted, tagged by topic, and translated into Turkish, the requests are sent to Turkish lawyers—who offer real-time advice via a secure SMS channel, with translation back into Arabic so the Syrians can easily understand the content. A mobile outreach campaign marked the service’s launch—promoting local legal awareness sessions and offering short tips on basic rights, such as: “Did you know that with registration, your children are entitled to free schooling? Text the service to learn more.”
Digital Reliance, a Swedish nonprofit, supplies mobile phones and SIM cards to newly arrived refugees. It coordinates with phone manufacturers, service providers, and volunteers to put packages together that provide that connectivity. They distribute at train stations, airport terminals, and refugee help centers, and even help with assembly and phone setup. They have to date distributed more than 4,000 smartphones and 7,000 prepaid SIM cards.
The article discusses the need to continue to experiment with and further fine-tune the technology and applications necessary to support these refugee families. To be able to make use of such services, for example, refugees must have working equipment.
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
Professor Marie Gillespie of the Open University in the UK has been conducting research into the gap in the provision of trustworthy, relevant reliable and timely news and information for refugees, which could be putting lives at risk. She argues that the answer to the problem could lie in the effective use of smart phones, which are an increasingly essential tool for refugees as they make their journeys.
“One of our main research findings is that the smart phone has the capacity both to empower refugees, but also, it is a very powerful surveillance tool in the hands of officials and government. As a result, refugees can use avatars and false identities online and they go digitally underground, which exposes them to further dangers, such as misinformation, lies and conspiracy theories circulated by criminals, political extremists or terrorists.”
More information here.
The previous OU link no longer works, but I have found the final research paper here. It's a 102-page paper and, in addition to talking about the obstacles and problems faced, it also has three case studies as recommendations of "best practices." Really great example of Tech4Good, and given the massive number of refugees, the issues detailed in this paper are, no doubt, an ongoing problem.
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