Many refugees in the developing world– where over 80% of refugees live– do not have access to smartphones and internet connectivity, which prevents them from utilizing common messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Viber. Since refugee communities use these platforms to exchange information—including news about available services, job opportunities, travel routes, or other crucial tips, including updates from UN agencies and relief organizations, those without access miss out on critical information.
For them, SMS text messaging is a lifeline—but technological limitations have prevented them from communicating as groups using SMS, making it difficult to self-organize or communicate time-sensitive information at any significant scale. Until now.
URBAN REFUGEES is developing SMS Up, a group messaging service that enables users to send SMS messages to multiple recipients using a single mobile phone number. This tool will enable refugees to:
The SMS Up Project is currently underway in Malaysia, where our team is in consultation with several refugee communities. The service is functional and will be tested until April 2017.