Wifi Access for Refugees
Until September 15, 2015, when harsh new laws went in to effect in Hungary, every day, thousands of refugees were passing through Keleti train station in Budapest in Hungary on their way to Northern and Western Europe. A major difficulty for them has been to find means to access the internet and charge their mobile phones, which is vital for them to communicate with family and friends; share information with each other or others en route with vital updates; access vital apps like Google maps, currency calculators, and language translation tools; news and information in their own languages; and to connect with fellow refugees. Kate Coyer, director of the Civil Society and Technology Project at CMDS launched a grassroots DIY initiative with Stefan Roch and former resident CMDS fellow Tim Libert, to provide wifi hotspots and phone charging stations for refugees who are staying at the Keleti train station in Budapest.
The tech aid has proven to be invaluable for Syrian refugees arriving to Hungary, and has received huge media coverage both in Hungary and internationally as one of the major Hungarian online news portals, Index ran an article about it, New Scientist discussed how smartphones are a vital survival tool for many of the millions who have been forced to flee Syria, and CNBC explored how smartphones are helping refugees in Europe. Kate Coyer also talked to Business Insider UK about the tech help they are providing for refugees, as well as BBC News, who also spoke to refugees about their vital technology needs and how the ability to stay connected is helping them. NPR also reported from Hungary and talked to Kate, who said that "if if technology can play a role in making those journeys a bit less precarious and harrowing, and help refugees stay connected and have access to reliable and up-to-date information, then they're worth investing in." Kate discussed the initiative in Marketplace's story, and also on Mashable, where she said that "When you can't trust governments, you have to rely on your own devices and networks."
Kate Coyer and Stefan Roch also presented their work in the 2015 CMDS Media and Change lecture series. Read more about the presentation here or watch the video below: