Communication Access for Refugees - How Smartphones and Apps Have Helped and Why Wireless Internet Access Should Be in Humanitarian Aid Toolkits
As tens of thousands of refugees make the harrowing journey across Europe, many are relying on mobile phones and internet access to make their journeys that much less precarious. Smartphone have become a vital tool and for people who have taken so little with them and lost most of what they had along the way. As a result, we’ve witnessed the proliferation of innovative new apps created to support refugees, giving evidence to the critical nature of access to communication in crises environments. At the same time, we’ve also seen completing narratives by some governments and media outlets misusing the presence of smartphones in the hands of migrants as a misguided justification for limiting refugee support.
In this talk, Kate Coyer and Stefan Roch will present some of the specific ways refugees have been using smartphones and mobile applications to communicate, share knowledge and access necessary information like navigation aid and maps. They will put this in context, looking at the role of technology in aiding humanitarian crises in New Orleans, Haiti and the Philippines. And they will give a brief overview of the Keleti Wifi / mobile charging project and the ongoing efforts across the region to continue to provide tech support and communication access for refugees.
Kate Coyer is Director of the Civil Society and Technology Project for the Center for Media, Data and Society in the School of Public Policy at Central European University (CEU). Her work supporting mobile internet access for refugees has recently been featured on the BBC World Service, National Public Radio, and Al Jazeera America and quoted in the Washington Post, New Scientist, and others. Stefan Roch is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at CEU. His Tumblr documenting the Keleti project is at: http://keleti-connected.tumblr.com/.