Finding Ways to Help Refugees Using Technology

Claudia Gomez

While some people don’t know what to do to help alleviate the agonizing situation of refugees, others are finding ways to meet those needs in ways they know- using technology. One such example is Techfugees, a social enterprise that has called on the tech community to help find ways to address the situation facing refugees. They have organized hackathons to find solutions to the refugee crisis, as well as partnered with NGOs to better understand the needs of the refugees.

Aid organizations have found that the one thing most refugee’s carry with them is their mobile device. With it they have a way to communicate with their families, utilizing places with electricity and Internet through their journeys to charge their phones and send messages and updates to their families. Their phones thus become an instrument with which humanitarian organizations can provide assistance.

Technology is a tool that is helpful and accessible to help refugees escaping war-torn countries, it provides a way for refugees to contact translators as well as find information on laws, directions, food, water and places to stay., a website developed by Mercy Corps in partnership with Google, The International Rescue Committee, and others, is one such website that was developed for refugees moving through Europe. It provides information on transport, emergency contacts, the location of refugee camps and more in various different languages.

One of the winning ideas from the Techfugees Hackathon is RefuTweet, a software that aims to provide refugees relief by connecting them to local individuals who are willing to help. The software uses personality analysis based on users tweets to find friendly tweeters in the area who are inclined to assist refugees.

Additionally, social media has been a technological platform through which refugees and NGOs have communicated and raised funds. Global Emergency Response and Assistance (GERA) is an NGO that has been able to utilize social media to sign up volunteers, organize fundraisers, promote an Amazon Registry of supplies for refugees, and also to send updates to followers about the current state and needs of the refugees who have relocated to New Jersey. Social media becomes a way in which followers get to know more about the refugees and give a face to the name.

Technology and mobile connectivities are low cost and important tools to provide impactful and necessary aid to large numbers of refugees. In the coming years, we will see more ways in which technology can help alleviate the crisis that is being faced by the over 1.2 million people who are crossing the Mediterranean. By putting themselves in the refugee’s shoes, talking to them and hearing their needs, we can make a difference by connecting those in need with the resources they need to improve their lives. Other ways to help is by volunteering or donating to organizations that contribute to these efforts, following their social media pages and promoting the work they do.