Innovating mobile solutions for refugees in East Africa

Organisation: Samuel Hall

Partners: Refunite

Location: Kakuma refugee camp, Turkana County, Northwest Kenya; Secondary locations: Nakivale refugee settlement, Isingiro District, Southwest Uganda; Eastleigh District, Nairobi, Kenya

Type of grant: Core – recognition

Status: Ongoing

  • On the road. A refugees travels through Kenya on her way to Nairobi. Credit Katie G Nelson.

  • Aerial view of Kakuma 1 as we begin to land

  • Internet cafés are common in Kakuma

  • Refugee students studying online in one of the computer labs at Arrupe Learning Center, Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. (Abdul Patient)

  • One of several streets that make up the trading area of Kakuma Zone 2. Kakuma is home to a relatively young population of refugees. (Abdul Patient)

This study will explore how refugees traveling within East Africa use technology to support migration, and to what extent current solutions meet their needs. The results will open the way for innovative solutions, uniquely tailored for refugees in East Africa.

What is the humanitarian need?

Literature on the use of mobile technology for migration mostly focuses on migration into Europe, with little research conducted to assess the technology uses and needs of refugees traveling to, from and within East Africa. Whilst refugees traveling from the Middle East rely on tools such as Facebook and Google Maps to support their journey to Europe, refugees traveling within Africa are much more limited in the technology they can use. Poor, or incomplete mobile connectivity across the region, lack of access to smartphones and low levels of technical literacy are all cited as core challenges.

What is the innovative solution?

This recognition study will both change and inform the perceptions of stakeholders working with refugees across all levels, by providing a better understanding of the technical, political and socioeconomic barriers and opportunities for using mobile and internet technology to support refugees within East Africa.

It is intended that this study will lead to the development of a suite of resources and innovative solutions for refugees that are uniquely tailored to East Africa. The result will improve the flow of information and services between refugees as well as the organisations that support them.

What are the expected outcomes?

Through a recognition report and short policy brief, this study will provide a better understanding of how technology impacts the lives of refugees in East Africa and the role mobile technology can play in addressing refugee needs.

A key output will be to highlight how innovations in technology can be used to develop more efficient mechanisms for delivering practical support to refugees and migrants.

The study will also result in the development of a practical evaluation tool that assess (and enables others to assess) the technology needs of refugees, as well as assess the impact of applications and services currently developed (or in development) for refugees. The aim of the evaluation tool is for it to guide the development of innovative technologies for refugee and vulnerable migrant communities.

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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