Techfugees Jordan was launched at a Technology Salon organised by Souktel and UNICEF on August 15th at Orange BIG incubator in the presence of key players from the local tech and humanitarian community.

The event aimed at gathering initial ideas on what technology and local volunteers can achieve in the region.

Techfugees Amman First event Tech Salon
A failed selfie by Techfugees’ COO

The event initiated a discussion between refugees, major NGOs (UNHCR & UNICEF) and techies (Tech Salon, Reboot Kamp, MIT, Edraak, Kiron University,) on what can be done with current digital technologies and what collaboration between sectors can achieve.

The discussion was moderated by Eva Kaplan from UNICEF and revolved around 3 major key points:

  • Few projects get deployed and make an impact.How do you build tech that addresses the real needs of refugees (instead of just being “cool”) and is used by refugees (many projects find it hard to market their innovation)?
  • Often, the problem faced by refugees looks technical, but it is political. How do you go about this?
  • The humanitarian sector is often short of cash and trapped in emergency:how do you make a project sustainable?

The discussion that followed highlighted the importance of a user-centred design approach to any project: if any tech project wants to solve a problem, it needs first to define the problem from the users’ perspective and develop solutions with the user – so it can testify it does make a difference.

Also, this approach enables innovators toto measure what impact they can have. At the moment, internet has been cut off in camps in Jordan. Knowing that internet access is not a technical issue but a highly sensitive and political issue encourages innovators to build tech that can be accessible or used offline.

Finally, a rather important share of tech projects and startups today rely on data to generate a business model. This business model is not one that can transfer lightly in the humanitarian sector. The collection of personal data of vulnerable people puts innovators in a position where they could involuntarily make those individuals even more vulnerable: subject to bullying, threats and sometimes organised crime.

The event created a safe space to bring the communities together (refugees, NGOs and techies) and help find some of the disconnects.

Organised with the support of TechSalon, UNICEF and Orange Business, Techfugees is planning for a hackathon by the end of 2016 in Amman. If you are interested to volunteer and help the setting up of the chapter, do contact the local Techfugees Jordan representative.