Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)
Dt. Ausg. u.d.T.:
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(Analysen und Stellungnahmen 16/2017)
Increasing global access to digital technologies is creating opportunities and challenges for donors and the humanitarian agencies with which they work to support people fleeing from war, massive human rights abuses and other emergencies. Digital tools make it easier for refugees to reach out to each other and humanitarian agencies, and can support greater efficiency in institutional efforts to provide essentials like medicine, food and money.
However, the effective use of digital tools to support refugee processes comes with a set of challenges. The key question for donors is: What are the existing approaches to digitalisation in refugee response, and the lessons learned, that donors can use to inform how they support digitalisation in refugee processes? To address this question, there are three things donors should focus on when developing a digital strategy for supporting refugees:
Donors must avoid the problem of “technology looking for a problem to solve”; knowing how refugee communities already use digital tools is the best way to avoid this. Generally, refugees themselves will have found innovative ways to meet their information needs, and donors can provide financial and technical assistance to support access to the existing technologies.
This policy brief provides a review of how refugees use digital tools, gives examples from organisations deploying digital technologies in the field, and discusses the effectiveness of and the ethical issues surrounding the use of digital technologies to support refugees. By putting the needs of refugees at the centre of their digital strategies and working with implementing organisations, such as UNHCR and Mercy Corps, to develop technology solutions that meet the needs of refugees and field staff safely and ethically, donors can get the most out of digital tools for supporting refugees.