How to turn refugee camps into smart cities

African Independent - - OUTLOOK -

for Pri­vate Sec­tor En­gage­ment on the Global Refugee Cri­sis, led to the de­vel­op­ment of a “Smart Com­mu­nity” model for refugee set­tle­ments.

By study­ing the needs of a par­tic­u­lar refugee ecosys­tem and ex­am­in­ing how in­ter­con­nected as­pects of its daily life are, from ed­u­ca­tion to health to fi­nan­cial ser­vices, we can pro­pose mean­ing­ful tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions. As a re­sult, new pay­ment, trans­ac­tion, and data tools can be im­ple­mented to im­prove the de­liv­ery of es­sen­tial ser­vices, whether pro­vided by the pri­vate sec­tor or non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions (NGOs).

In or­der to fa­cil­i­tate the growth of “Smart Com­mu­ni­ties,” we need a cross-sec­tor group of or­gan­i­sa­tions to step up. Pri­vate com­pa­nies, civil so­ci­ety, gov­ern­ment agen­cies, and fi­nanciers com­mit­ted to ad­vanc­ing tech­nol­ogy for the com­mon good should come to­gether to iden­tify mod­els that:

Em­power refugees through new eco­nomic growth op­por­tu­ni­ties

Pro­vide greater value for host com­mu­ni­ties and coun­tries

En­able United Na­tions agen­cies and NGOs to man­age the refugee re­sponse with in­creased ef­fi­cien­cies, stretch­ing their fund­ing for greater im­pact

Ef­forts could fo­cus on a coun­try like Uganda, whose refugee pop­u­la­tion in­creased by 68% to over 1.3 mil­lion in the last year. While the gov­ern­ment main­tains an open-door pol­icy that gives refugees the right to work, a plot of land and ac­cess to health and ed­u­ca­tion, among other ben­e­fits, sig­nif­i­cant re­source gaps im­pede progress. De­spite the best ef­forts of pub­lic and pri­vate hu­man­i­tar­ian and de­vel­op­ment ac­tors to pro­vide sup­port, the needs of the refugee pop­u­la­tion con­tinue to grow.

Since the world’s wealth­ier cities recog­nise the value of tech­nol­ogy and data to man­age op­er­a­tions and ad­vance in­clu­sive growth for their own cit­i­zens, why not use such tools in refugee set­tle­ments, whose needs are ar­guably greater?

Work­ing to­gether, we can de­liver so­lu­tions to im­pact the lives of thou­sands of refugees and host com­mu­nity mem­bers, with the po­ten­tial to repli­cate and scale to reach mil­lions. Now is the time to re-imag­ine the refugee camp. Let’s re­store dig­nity and eco­nomic re­silience to those who have al­ready lost so much.

This ar­ti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished on we­fo­ Tara Nathan ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Gov­ern­ment and De­vel­op­ment, Master­card


COM­PLEX: An ex­ten­sion to the world’s largest refugee camp com­plex in Dadaab, Kenya. The pho­to­graph is part of the ex­hibit “Inse­cu­ri­ties: Trac­ing Dis­place­ment and Shel­ter”, in New York.

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