UN: UNHCR report says mobile connectivity critical lifeline for refugees

New York, US (PANA) - Many refugees view access to a mobile phone and the Internet as being as critical to their safety and security as food, water and shelter, according to a new report released on Wednesday by the UN refugee agency and a global professional and technology consulting company, Accenture.

"In the world we live in today, Internet connectivity and smart phones can become a lifeline for refugees, providing an essential means for them to give and receive vital information, communicate with separated family members, gain access to essential services, and reconnect to the local, national and global communities around them," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement on the report.

"Most importantly, connectivity can help broaden the opportunities for refugees to improve their own lives and pursue a vision of a future that would otherwise be denied to them," he added.

The report, titled 'Connected Refugees: How the Internet and Mobile Connectivity Can Improve Refugee Well-being and Transform Humanitarian Action', was published by the UNHCR and Accenture.

Its findings, based on research undertaken in 44 countries on four continents, came at a moment when wars and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since UNHCR began keeping records.

It noted that at end of 2015, 65.3 million people were displaced worldwide, of whom 21.3 million were refugees.

"In the world we live in today, Internet connectivity and smart phones can become a lifeline for refugees, while affordability is often a barrier to connectivity, refugees living in urban areas tend to have similar access to mobile networks as other urban populations.

"But for refugees in rural locations the picture is very different, with only one in six located in areas with 3G (short for the third generation of wireless mobile technology) access, and one in five having no mobile coverage at all – significantly lower than for the population at large," the report stated.

Faced with a pressing need, it however recommended additional investments in three main areas, which together form the basis of a new UNHCR Global Strategy for Connectivity for Refugees.

These include increasing the availability of mobile networks, improving affordability, and providing access to training, digital content and services.

The report also identified a number of strategic interventions to help ensure connectivity, ranging from partnering with mobile network operators and other technology and communications companies to improve infrastructure, making targeted investments in infrastructure, and enabling an environment and system for digital service delivery.
-0-  PANA  AA/AR  14Sept2016

14 september 2016 18:38:45




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