Point Conference Sarajevo: how technology can help refugees

“Technology changed the entire face of this crisis. I am absolutely sure that without the use of the internet and technology, this would have been an even bigger catastrophe… In every way, technology helps the refugees, it helps us volunteers, the organisations working in the field…”

Tim Clancy, on the ground volunteer providing humanitarian assistance to refugees since the early 90’s, when the war in Bosnia started.

On May 27th, Techfugees participated in the POINT regional conference which brought regional civil society from 7 countries of Southern Europe. The panel discussion attended by two Techfugees representatives, Filip Milenković Co-Managing Director of Techfugees Belgrade and Josephine Goube, COO,  brought together regional actors working at supplying humanitarian assistance to the refugees to discuss their work and impact on the ground.

Tim Clancy – Photo Credits: UG Zasto ne and Vanja Čerimagić

The panel titled “Technology and Refugee Crisis – What Works and What Does Not?” stressed on how technology has changed the reality of the refugee journey. As Tim explained, many organisations have saved refugees at sea through the sharing of geo-localised information via smartphones, and doctors are now able to provide first assistance and care via phone while they move towards the victims. Many refugees have been relying on smartphones and internet access – but not only that: assistance and the coordination of volunteers has been made easier and more effective.

Kate Coyer told the story of how she got involved with refugees as a volunteer through social media, and how groups of volunteers on the shores of Greece use the communication platform Slack to coordinate help. She reckoned that one of the first questions refugees asked her often would be: “Is there wifi?”

The Techfugees family: Josephine Goube, COO Techfugees; Valent Turkovic, Meshpoint; Filip Milenkovic, Techfugees Belgrade. Photo Credits: UG Zasto ne and Vanja Čerimagić

All speakers insisted on the importance of technology as an enabler, and supported evidence that technology has become a lifeline for refugees on their journey.

Yet, the potential of technology to foster the integration of newcomers into host communities beyond the exhausting journey – has yet to be uncovered and is surely only one area where more and more policy makers are looking into.

Read more about the panel on point conference blog article.