Mobile Making a Difference in the Lives of Refugees

The world is a dangerous place, and wars still claim thousands of lives across the world, taking its toll on families who end up separated and not knowing where their loved ones are. Not knowing is what brings the most anguish, but there is a way to help, and it’s via mobile phones.

The goal of REFUNITE, a technology non-profit organisation, is to provide displaced families a way to find and get in touch with their loved ones. To do that, REFUNITE developed an entire tracing platform that gathers the information on displaced and missing people and makes the data accessible online or via mobile phones.

Searching via SMS and USSD

Mobile phones are the obvious choice for accessing the database of displaced persons, but what’s even more important than the device is the mobile channel you use. REFUNITE’s platform uses SMS and USSD to let people search for their friends and family, and those two mobile technologies are the ideal choice thanks to their robust and low-resource nature.

Infobip is proud to be a partner of REFUNITE in managing SMS and USSD connectivity and the integration with the database and the back-end system. With our global experience bridging the gap between organisations and mobile operators, we were ideally positioned to act as REFUNITE’s only point of contact for connectivity towards mobile operators in multiple countries.

Global, robust, accessible

SMS is the most popular and widely used mobile channel, supported by all kinds of mobile phones, not requiring internet connectivity and enabling communication wherever there is a mobile signal. Just like SMS, USSD is robust and reliable, supported by all types of mobiles and doesn’t need a mobile data connection, but unlike SMS, it lets users interact via text menus with a back end application in real time.

As utilised by REFUNITE, USSD and SMS deliver easy to use menus, where users can enter search parameters (name, age, last known location etc.) and receive a list of potential matches. Currently, REFUNITE and Infobip are able to deliver access to the online family tracing platform via SMS and/or USSD in DR Congo, Jordan and Turkey. Countries in the pipeline include Somalia, South Sudan, and the Philippines.

May 25th, 2015
2 min read