LISTEN NOW: The Digital Lives of Refugees: How displaced populations use mobile phones and what gets in the way?


Author: GSMA

This webinar discusses research by GSMA with UNHCR which explores the ways in which refugees are using mobile phones to help guide digital interventions by humanitarian organisations and mobile network operators. This research explores the ways in which mobile technology can improve access to financial services, utilities (notably energy) and identity services, as well as information to improve food security, with an overarching focus on gender and inclusivity in three refugee contexts: Kiziba (Rwanda), Bidi Bidi (Uganda) and urban areas in Jordan. It aims to provide humanitarian organisations and mobile network operators with unique insights and direction on how to work together to digitise humanitarian assistance and ensure the benefits of mobile technology are shared equally by all.

Jenny Casswell and Matthew Downer from GSMA and John Warnes from UNHCR outline the key findings of the research and recommendations for humanitarian organisations and MNOs. The research took both a quantitative and qualitative approach, which helps to more fully understand the refugees experience if using mobile phones and the challenges and barriers impacting on use.

Interesting differences were seen between Jordan, where mobile ownership was much higher and charging less of a barrier; through Bidi Bidi where 3 out of 10 people have not heard of mobile internet and 10% of have never used a phone.

Barriers to phone ownership and mobile internet use were found to fall in three main areas – affordability (device and airtime/data), charging and digital literacy. Globally women are 23% less likely to use mobile internet and 10% less likely to own a phone, these gaps grow larger when looking at female refugees in Bidi Bidi and Kiziba. The same three barriers are involved and meaningful use cases for women are needed to help increase use. Gaps on ownership and usage are also greater for refugees with disabilities.

During the webinar the following references are referred to: