Today, Data & Society and the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at Harvard Humanitarian Initiative release “Refugee Connectivity: A Survey of Mobile Phones, Mental Health, and Privacy at a Syrian Refugee Camp in Greece.”
Supported by the International Data Responsibility Group, the report provides strong evidence of the importance of mobile phones among refugee populations.
Authors Mark Latonero (Data & Society), Danielle Poole (Harvard Humanitarian Initiative), and Jos Berens (Centre for Innovation at Leiden University) found that over 80% of refugees think that phones are important. For these populations, contend the authors, phones are essential to aid, survival, and well-being. According to one respondent, “the mobile phone is like oxygen to me.”
This report helps to establish an evidence base that will better inform organizations responding to the refugee crisis about the people they serve. As more aid delivery is programmed through mobile platforms, understanding how culture, economic status, and gender influence how phones are used is critical. The study recommends that stakeholders who are currently considering or deploying technologies in these contexts first rigorously examine and rapidly assess the population demographics in specific contexts where they operate.
This research is a result of a survey design that simultaneously employed two distinct methodologies: Danielle Poole created and led the survey methodology and investigation of mobile connectivity and mental health, while Mark Latonero led the investigation of mobile connectivity and privacy.
Report and key findings:
- Privacy, trust, and information security are important factors for refugees. Many respondents had a sense of the people and platforms they would or would not trust with their sensitive information.
- Eighty-six percent (86%) said they would not be concerned about giving their personal information to a UN official. Yet for Facebook, 30% expressed concern about giving the social media site their personal information, 52% were unconcerned, and 15% were unsure. Thirty-three percent (33%) said they have been asked to provide information about themselves that they would rather not have given.
- Refugees have nuanced views on privacy and information sensitivity. Response organizations must protect the privacy rights of refugees and understand that different technologies receive different degrees of trust.
- The study demonstrates the need for further research and assessment of social context for any technology deployed for refugees.
- In order to be able to deploy technological intervention effectively and responsibly, say the authors, social factors specific to refugee populations need to be understood.
About the study
This research by Jos Berens, Mark Latonero, Danielle Poole, and Julie Ricard (DataPop Alliance) is a result of a survey design that simultaneously employed two distinct methodologies: Danielle Poole created and led the survey methodology and investigation of mobile connectivity and mental health, while Mark Latonero led the investigation of mobile connectivity and privacy.
About the Data, Human Rights, and Human Security initiative at Data & Society
Data can provide real-time awareness about disaster, violence, or protest. Yet practitioners, researchers, and policymakers face unique challenges and opportunities when assessing technological benefit, risk, and harm. The Data, Human Rights, and Human Security initiative at Data & Society asks: How can these technologies be used responsibly to assist people in need, prevent abuse, and protect them from harm?
For press inquiries about this report’s investigation of mobile connectivity and privacy (researcher Mark Latonero), contact Sam Hinds García, Data & Society, [email protected]
For press inquiries about this report’s investigation of gender and depression (researcher Danielle Poole), contact Caitlin Howarth, Signal Program at Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, ch[email protected], (202) 695-2509.