Migration and Refugees

Tech Migration: How Refugees Use Mobiles Phones to Locate and Communicate With Family

Posted by EKStallings on Dec 13, 2011

Refugees often experience a compound trauma: The situation that caused them to flee in the first place, as well as the fact that many families become separated during migration. For refugee's health and well-being and ability to resettle, it is vital to know the whereabouts of relatives, their safety, and their ability to remain in contact. Today, mobile phones are the most important technology for refugees to find relatives and remain in contact. 

The Forced Migration Review Issue 38The Technology Issue covers technologies for refugees in particular. Two chapters shine a light on the use of mobile phones among refugees, as well as  some of the problems with this tech to find and contact family member such as issues of security, and accessibility.

Phoning Home

Drawing from a workshop with refugees, their advocates, NGO staff, and researchers, "Phoning Home," by Linda Leung examines refugees' ways of remaining in contact with family elsewhere. As a companion piece to the University of Technology Sydney research paper,Technology's Refuge that analyzes ways in which refugees use communication technologies, Leung describes the barriers to refugee usage of mobile phones.

Photo by IICD, iicd.org

Facilitating Cross-Border Mobile Banking in Southern Africa

Posted by bexband on Sep 26, 2011
Facilitating Cross-Border Mobile Banking in Southern Africa data sheet 1089 Views
Maimbo, Samuel, Tania Saranga, and Nicholas Strychacz
Publication Date: 
Aug 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The use of mobile banking is an increasingly important component of national and regional economic development in Southern Africa. Mobile banking can help bring the large unbanked population into the formal financial sector, and can facilitate cross-border trade by easing the difficulty for small businesses and traders to make financial transactions.


For mobile banking to reach its full potential in Southern Africa, however, African governments must establish more efficient regulatory frameworks and implement well-designed pilot programs to gain more insight into the challenges facing a full rollout of mobile banking

The Cell Phone and the Nigerian Immigrants in Anglophone Cameroon

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Mar 07, 2011
The Cell Phone and the Nigerian Immigrants in Anglophone Cameroon data sheet 1579 Views
Fonchingon, Tangie Nsoh
Publication Date: 
Dec 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

As an instrument for connecting people near and far, the cell phone is crucially related to mobility, that is, spatial mobility in particular migration.  Irrespective of the distance, one can still stay connected with kith and kin back home through the cell phone. In this way the feeling of absence is mitigated. Though important, staying connected does not seem to be the only way in which the cell is related to or impacts on migration/migrants.  What, for instance, is the relationship between the cell phone and the migrants’ survival  strategies. Put differently, is the cell phone an asset or a liability to the migrants in the host society?  

This study considers the impact and appropriation of the mobile phone by the Nigerian immigrants in Anglophone Cameroon. The thrust of the argument is that the cell phone is an indispensable assert to the Nigerian migrants in Anglophone Cameroon. They appropriate the cell phone in solving a number of migrant-related problems. 

Mobile Phone Communication in the Margins of Africa: Continuity and Change of Communication Patterns and Society

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Mar 07, 2011
Mobile Phone Communication in the Margins of Africa: Continuity and Change of Communication Patterns and Society data sheet 1243 Views
de Bruijn, Mirjam and Brinkman, Inge
Publication Date: 
May 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Anno 2010 the mobile phone seems to be an everyday device in African societies. The phone culture is a given, especially in cities but increasingly as well in rural areas where almost everybody lives in a circle of 50 km from mobile reach. It is only 20 years ago that the first cities in Africa were connected and only since a few years that the rural areas are within mobile reach. It is because of this short implementation phase that the 'normality' of the mobile phone in Africa raises many questions. Why the mobile phone was so easily adopted? What changes did it bring to African societies? Was the revolution in technological change a societal change as well; and if so in what sense and for whom?

In this paper we investigate these questions for so called 'marginal' mobile populations in Africa. These are people from marginal areas who have been pushed out of these areas for creating a better livelihood, for political reasons, etc., leading to the formation of mobile societies/communities. These are people whose relationships expand over vast social spaces, and for whom communication is a pivotal importance for their social life. Especially in these populations we expect social change due to new ICT's, especially the mobile phone. Case studies from Cameroon and Mali (pastoral nomadic societies), and Chad and Angola (refugees, displaced people for political reasons) show that we should consider mobile phones in a sequence of communication strategies of the people living in these mobile societies, that indeed means social change and economic change, but at the same time is a continuation of existing social patterns. The phone culture is part of existing communication cultures in Africa

Can you find me now? Refugees United Goes Mobile to Help Reunite Refugees

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Oct 28, 2010
Can you find me now? Refugees United Goes Mobile to Help Reunite Refugees data sheet 4060 Views

As part of a pilot project in Uganda, Refugees United is using mobile tools to help connect refugees who have been displaced by war, persecution, and natural disasters. Refugees United is a Danish NGO that designed and runs a web-based program to help people directly reconnect with missing loved ones. For the mobile pilot, it is working in conjunction with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), mobile phone maker Ericsson, MTN, a mobile telecommunications company in Africa and specifically MTN Uganda, as well as other partner organizations on the ground.

Basic Information
Organization involved in the project?: 
Project goals: 

The goal of the mobile pilot is to perform outreach, training, and registration at refugee camps in Uganda and analyze results.

Brief description of the project: 

Refugees United is doing a six-month mobile pilot program in Uganda that allows refugees to register via mobile phone for a service that helps them connect with missing family members.

Target audience: 

The target audience for the mobile pilot is refugees in Uganda who are looking for missing family members.

Detailed Information
Length of Project (in months) : 
What worked well? : 

The Refugees United pilot leveraged a technology -- the basic mobile phone -- that users are familiar with. Another success is the strength of the partnerships involved with the program. Refugees United drew from the existing local knowledge of organizations on the ground.

What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

Safety and trust within the system are ongoing concerns.

Refugees United

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Oct 27, 2010

Refugees United helps to empower refugees by using an internet search tool to help people directly reconnect with missing loved ones. The NGO administers a database without involvement from third parties. Registration and use allows for full anonymity.

Organization Type: 
Aldersrogade 8, st DK-2100 Copenhagen

Tagged With:

The Mobile Minute: Mobile Web in the Aussie Elections, the Kenyan Mobile Price War, and Refugees Turn to Mobiles

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 14, 2010


Today's Mobile Minute brings you coverage on Australia's record mobile web usage during the recent elections there, how telecom's price wars in Kenya have pushed down prices, why carriers may have raised the price of Google's Nexus One, a project Ugandan refugees using mobiles to find missing family, and competition for data-enabled handsets in Africa.

Peace Corps

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 01, 2009

The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then-Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that inspiration grew an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship. Since that time, more than 195,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 139 host countries to work on issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology and environmental preservation.

Organization Type: 
Washington, D.C.

Can Social Networking Be Used for Social Change?

Posted by sharakarasic on Nov 19, 2008

On day three of MobileActive ’08, I attended a session led by engineer Blaine Cook, formerly Twitter’s Chief Architect.

Cook summarized what the group was looking for:

“We would like an ongoing, up-to-date tool. A migration tool that keeps us moving from one social network to the next so NGO’s can move and migrate from platform to platform. We need the ability for any one organization to connect with any other organization.”

Mixit was mentioned as a useful tool, but Cook noted cross-border interoperability issues: Mixit requires GPRS which isn’t that credible across borders. Using a SIM card costs a lot to text across borders. Cook suggested that there could be a network where you send to SIM chip in Uganda from Uganda, but set up a network with nodes to dramatically cut costs of cross-border activism.

Cook said that it costs around $20,000-30,000 for a short code in the US and you can send as many SMS’s as you like. He mentioned that Twitter got a bill for $37,000 in Egypt for only 6000 Twitter users.

Mobile phone lifeline for world's poor

Posted by Simon Pavitt on Feb 23, 2008

There's a great article about spread of mobile phones in India and Africa on the BBC News website.

For instance, it mentions how migrant Zimbabwean workers in South Africa send money back using M-banking and avoid having to pay bribes to border guards when they go home.

SOS SMS: A Text Helpline for Philippine Workers

Posted by CorinneRamey on Feb 14, 2008

A single computer, hooked up to a modem in Bobby Soriano's house in the Philippines, receives a steady of stream of text messages begging for help. There have been messages from Philippine seamen, who, after being accused of the murder of a Korean captain, were forced to confess by Omani police. There was a Philippine domestic worker in Lebanon who was forced to flee to the mountains to escape Israeli bombings, and a message from twenty Philippine sailors who were evicted from their ship by police near Denmark. In each of these cases, a single SMS message with the keyword "SOS" was sent to a hotline in the Philippines, activating a network of nonprofits and government agencies to come to the workers' rescue.

Artivists and Mobile Phones: The Transborder Immigrant Project

Posted by CorinneRamey on Nov 18, 2007

Editor's NOTE, September 2010: The Transborder Immigration Tool has, since this post was first put online in 2007, generated quite a bit of controversy. As far as we know, the tool was never deployed with anyone (we are checking with Ricardo Dominguez on the state of development of the tool) but since then has risen to the attention (as the art project/concept/idea) of even Glenn Beck, a US conservative commentator. A YouTube video of Ricardo describing the project from April 2010 is here, and an article in the San Diego City Beat outlines the political story of the last year of the Transborder Immigration Tool.