With the structure and basic content of my research project very clear in my mind, it’s time to do the lit review! I must admit I was a little overwhelmed at first as to how to keep track of all my research and keep my direction clear, hence the delay on this post…
Nevertheless! I decided to make a Google doc of the aggregated resources I’ve found so far and conduct my literature review. Turns out there is a lot of information on every topic and naturally I want to share it all, so my biggest challenge will be determining what is most vital to include in the video series. If I find I can’t fit everything I want to share in the videos, I may also post corresponding blog posts with more information for those interested.
One of the (many) questions that has arisen from my research is should mobile phone access be considered a basic need? One case study from Za’atari refugee camp on the Jordan/Syria border looked at the camp dynamics and the important role access to networks, SIMs and data plays for refugees. While UNHCR (the main group running the camp along with the Jordanian Government) hand out free SIM cards for all new residents, data and call minutes are not free. Access to networks is not considered a basic need and therefore cannot be covered by UNHCR. Contrary to UNHCR’s policy, this case study and other case studies I’ve researched have all indicated that access to a mobile phone/networks is of vital importance for refugees. Smartphones and network access essentially act as a lifeline to find accommodation, support networks, receive advice/warnings, avoid police and dangerous traffickers, provide a GPS location/contact the coast guard for those who travel by water – the list goes on.
Through my research I’ve also noted that technology use and access amongst refugees can have significant differences, caused by factors such as “socio-economic status, level of education, urban/rural residence and age”. These differences result in what has been termed the digital divide, which involves inequality not only in terms of access, but also through one’s ability to effectively utilise their access. What’s interesting is that training courses have been implemented in various refugee camps and urban resettlements (such as Za’atari, Niamey, Niger and New Zealand) as a way to close this divide. This not only highlights the importance of access but also the recognition by non refugees as to the importance of access and being able to utilise it to receive/transfer money, have educational programs and communicate with support networks.
On the flipside, use of new technologies on refugees raises even more questions. A 2015 study paper looked at the use and development of new technologies in humanitarian settings (including drone surveillance, biometrics used for managing refugees, SMS, GPS and other info/communication technologies) and found there is a history of ‘experimental’ use of these technologies, which is also linked to biopolitics. Biometrics through iris recognition technology as a way to receive money is one such example of these experimental technologies being utilised on refugees: IrisGuard are a leading force in this technology, registering over 1.6 million refugees as of June 2015. In a press release statement, they stated this technology allows refugees to “walk up to an IrisGuard enabled ATM on the street, present one eye only (no card or pin) and effortlessly withdraw their cash allocated financial subsidy immediately.” While there are certainly benefits to using these new technologies, I have to wonder what the risks are around identity theft and human rights. Afterall, online payments/data are attached to your identity and therefore controlled. And as refugees cannot officially be declared as refugees (with UNHCR) until they are registered through biometrics, is there really a choice in all this?
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE. 2015. Europe-bound Syrians use social media to ease journey, Arab News, available at: http://www.arabnews.com/news/793741
Creti P. 2014. Study on Mobile Cash Transfers for Urban Refugees in Niamey, Niger, Cash Learning, available at: http://www.cashlearning.org/downloads/mobile-cash-transfers-for-urban-refugees-in-niamey-niger-synthesis.pdf
Crump B.R. & Kabbar E.F. 2006. The Factors that Influence Adoption of ICTs by Recent Refugee Immigrants to New Zealand, Informing Science Journal, available at: http://proceedings.informingscience.org/InSITE2006/ISJv9p111-121Kabbar76.pdf
Dekker R & Engbersen G. 2012. How social media transform migrant networks and facilitate migration, International Migration Institute, available at: http://imi.socsci.ox.ac.uk/pdfs/wp/wp-64-12.pdf
Favell A. 2015. Using biometric technology to register refugees, Computer Weekly, available at: http://www.computerweekly.com/photostory/4500254579/Aid-organisations-using-technology-to-help-Syrian-refugees-in-the-Middle-East/2/Using-biometric-technology-to-register-refugees
IrisGuard press release as mentioned in above reference: O’Carroll J. 2015. IrisGuard – EyeBank® Cash Payment – Serving Syrian Refugees Daily, Press Release newswire, available at: https://www.prbuzz.com/technology/321419-irisguard-eyebank-cash-payment-serving-syrian-refugees-daily.html
Jacobsen K. 2015. Experimentation in humanitarian locations: UNHCR and biometric registration of Afghan refugees, SAGE Journals, available at: http://sdi.sagepub.com/content/46/2/144.full
Maitland C & Xu, Ying A. 2015 Social Informatics Analysis of Refugee Mobile Phone Use: A Case Study of Za’atari Syrian Refugee Camp (March 31, 2015). TPRC 43: The 43rd Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy Paper. Available at SSRN: http://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=142095081069091013107126087078120113014042095000089091121086087094073004121024003092119034022008009024050126000078104002113031006007037073081013100125095116025098054049080103079083111082122016118005028074090069122031065067117096107087088105100026115&EXT=pdf
McLaughlin D. 2015. Mass migration guided by mobiles and social media, The Irish Times (reported from Budapest), available at: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/mass-migration-guided-by-mobiles-and-social-media-1.2344662
Williams A. 2015. Stop shaming Syrian refugees for using cellphones, The Daily Dot, available at: http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/syria-refugees-cell-phone-use/