Recent refugee crises are distinct from those in years past because of the central role of digital technologies in the experiences of refugees. Indeed, the image of digitally connected refugees has captured the public imagination. News headlines from the New York Times and the BBC proclaim that mobile phones are as necessary for refugees as shelter or food. In fact, individuals and families making the journey from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe rely on an array of digital technology. Refugees connect to Google Maps to navigate land routes, Facebook to find missing loved ones, Western Union to transfer money, and use Vodafone SIM cards to call rescue officials from sinking boats.
This report employs social science methods in the field to understand the role technology and connectivity play in refugees’ lives, and addresses key information gaps for international organizations, NGOs, governments, academic researchers, and technologists.