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 3822 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.

** Update ** Premium Information Services by Google and MTN in Uganda - and why is the cost so high?

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jul 01, 2009

My post on Google's SMS services raised quite the storm in the waterglass. Erik Hersman took me to taks for, as he sees it, questioning that "if people who are claiming to help the poor should charge, and if so, should they make a profit."

However, this was not my point. My question was why, given the target audience as noted in the Google post and Grameen Foundation press release, for at least one of the services (SMS Tips) the cost per SMS comes at the highest premium price but is not advertised as such in the promotional literature and PR. Secondly, given that Google Labs in India makes a smilar SMS info service available at the regular cost of an SMS in India (which is exceedingly cheap), why does Google behave so differently in the African market, in essence colluding with the absorbitantly high costs of SMS there?

So I emailed Rachel Payne, Google’s lead in Uganda to clarify the costs that I only speculated about. Here is what she says, clarifying the pricing: 

In the Elevator with Operators: How to Pitch New Service Ideas to Mobile Companies

Posted by sharakarasic on Nov 19, 2008

On day two of the MobileActive ’08 conference in Johannesburg, I attended a session entitled "In the Elevator With Operators: How to Pitch New Service Ideas to Mobile Companies” that focused on how to pitch mobile development projects that present both a social and a business opportunity. It was moderated by Jesse Moore of the GSMA Development Fund, and panelists were Pieter Verkade, the CMO of MTN South Africa, and Vuyani Jurana, executive director at Vodacom SA.

At some point, people with new mobile ideas in the development field need to get mobile operators involved so services can scale from small pilot projects to sustainable efforts that service many more people. As Moore said: “If you’re losing money, scale is your enemy. If you’re making money, scale is your friend.”