Refunite: Uniting refugees and fostering connections with USSD and SMS
Deploying mobile communications to help refugees and families reunite
REFUNITE helps displaced persons find their loved ones through a global, online database that can be accessed and searched online or via mobile. Mobile is the true challenge: it needs to be a reliable and resilient service that can work even far away from any kind of internet coverage and be cost-effective for REFUNITE, but also familiar and widely used by users in different countries.
Integrated SMS and USSD communication channels
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. USSD is also robust and reliable, supported by all types of mobiles and doesn’t need a mobile data connection. It lets users interact via text menus with a back end application in real time.
The two technologies seemed like a perfect fit for REFUNITE and their needs, USSD to enable users to search the database of displaced persons, and SMS to provide notifications, information and alerts, as well as enabling users to search the online database by sending in a simple SMS with the name of the person they are looking for.
REFUNITE and Infobip partnered to develop a complete solution, where REFUNITE harnessed the digitised database, developed the database application and the back end, and Infobip provided the technology to connect REFUNITE with its mobile operator partners in several countries across the world, with large populations of displaced people. Infobip’s expertise and market position enabled it to act as a single provider towards mobile operators, simultaneously ensuring USSD and SMS coverage.
Both 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.
Extended availability and reach of REFUNITE’s platform
Bringing REFUNITE’s family tracing platform to offline users via SMS and USSD complements the online access method via www.refunite.org. Knowing that most of the world’s refugees and displaced populations do not have internet access, these two services are crucial in order to reconnect millions of separated families across the globe. The cooperation resulted in REFUNITE being 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.
Everyone has a right to know where their family is. This is the belief of REFUNITE, a technology non-profit with a mission to change the process for family tracing. By creating a user-friendly, online global database with more than 400,000 users and growing, people that have been separated from their friends or family members can now search for their missing loved ones with the click of a button.