As well as being essential for keeping in touch with loved ones, 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 this new report by UNHCR and Accenture. The report is based on research undertaken in 44 countries on four continents. It shows that for many refugees a connected device is a lifeline and a critical tool for self-empowerment.
The study finds that 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 access, and one in five having no mobile coverage at all – significantly lower than for the population at large.
The report also identifies 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.