Innovative Mobile App Enables Rohingya Refugees to Communicate with Humanitarians

Source: Wed, 6 Dec 2017 12:52 PM
About 77% of the Rohingya people lack access to information. Photo: WFP/Katarzyna Chojnacka
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Rohingya refugees, though nationals of Myanmar, have no legal documentation from that country nor do they have any legal status in Bangladesh. Their lack of documentation makes it impossible for them to buy local SIM cards either side of the border. To tackle this barrier, humanitarian workers in Bangladesh have developed a mobile app that enables Rohingya refugees to communicate with aid workers even without having sim cards in their phones.

 According to Fawad Alam, a volunteer with the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) and lead developer of the application, the mobile app that has been named ETC-Connect seeks to link humanitarians with crisis affected communities.

 “As a humanitarian worker I feel proud to have developed an app that listens to beneficiary questions, issues and can respond to them in a timely manner,” said Fawad.

 ‘’The ETC- Connect Mobile Application is a simple way for humanitarians to collect and log information requests and issues on a mobile device. As soon as the mobile device has connectivity, the request is automatically sent to a central data-base, where it is answered by a qualified person and synched with the app. The information can then be passed along to the beneficiary,” explained Fawad.

The mobile application is being piloted by Emergency Telecommunications Sector (ETS) with the help of BRAC, a Bangladesh NGO that works with Rohingya refugees in several sectors that include shelter provision, education, health and address gender-based violence and offer protection to the affected.

 “The fact that all complaints are logged is great, as it gives us real time overview of what services men and women want to know more about and where. This is not only to improve the way we assist these populations, but to offer a system of accountability that tracks how quickly and effectively we were able to address an issue,” said BRAC’s programme officer Iffat Nawaz. 

The pilot stage involved testing the app as well as training field monitors to effectively capture, record and provide adequate feedback. The application is also able to mark if a protection sensitive issue is lodged. All cases marked with protection sensitivity are managed and followed up by BRAC’s protection unit. Iffat’s team led by Bibek is currently piloting the application with the ETS Services for Communities (S4C) adviser in various Cox’s Bazar camps where newly arrived Rohingya refugees reside. 

This article has been adapted with permission from a blog by the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster.


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