Refugees United Technical Challenges
Adam Rifkin stashed this in GOOD
This is awesome:
Of the world’s more than 43 million displaced people, countless family members have become separated during their escape from conflict and natural disasters. Given the violent circumstances under which most of them flee, people are scattered in a panic and begin their trek towards safety in whichever direction the crowd takes them. Some go south, others head north.
Up until recently, refugee family tracing consisted of pen and paper forms, individual silos with little information shared between organizations. No open, central databases were created for organizations to input and cross-reference from, no mobile technology taken into use.
The number of people who was helped to find their missing loved ones in this system was less than optimal. The main reason being the bottleneck arising as organizations were relying on only one or two aid workers to deal with tens of thousands of refugees, sometimes hundreds of thousands, in camps and urban areas.
And, the most important part of the equation was left out… the refugees themselves.
The platform www.refunite.org was created to provide not only a powerful platform and toolset for aid agencies to better assist separated families, but to empower refugees to take the search process into their own hands.
Working inside refugee camps and urban areas through East Africa, our teams and partners have so far registered nearly 200,000 refugees. We collect information through WAP and connect knowledge from our platform via SMS. Please see m.refunite.org for more information.
Despite our successes, we’re still facing immense obstacles in our work. Obstacles you can help us with, to help seperated family members find each other again.
Our users, living in e.g. Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, fall in the low-skill and low literacy bracket, but are very resourceful. Some amongst them will be literate and understand tech better than others, and these will typically be singled out for assistance. Most have access to a basic phone and everyone with a phone will top it up with airtime daily, using USSD.
Place yourself in a 40-degree hot desert, hungry, looking for family and relatives, with only a $10 feature phone and no money. This is who you will help.