Digital Inclusion

Generously supported by the Government of Luxembourg


UNHCR’s Digital Inclusion programme aims to ensure that refugees and the communities that host them have the right, and the choice, to be included in a connected society, and can have their voices heard in the design and implementation of humanitarian response. This programme is led by UNHCR’s Innovation Service and utilises innovative approaches, tools and methodologies to achieve its goals – encouraging community-centric creative approaches that address identified challenges.

It brings together efforts to date on UNHCR’s Connectivity for Refugees initiative, which focuses primarily on access to digital channels and connectivity, and UNHCR’s Innovation Service’s work on Communicating with Communities. Through this, we seek to use connectivity and digital access to not only break down digital divides and barriers communities might face in accessing digital technology, but also use it to increase their participation in the agency’s programming, strengthening the organisation’s accountability to affected people (AAP).

The programme is delivered by the UNHCR Innovation Service to pursue experimental and forward-thinking approaches to the topic of digital  inclusion, something that will impact the future work of UNHCR across its different work areas. It will be a sandbox for testing new operational activities that support persons of concern to UNHCR to exercise their rights to be part of a connected society. It provides space to develop creative solutions to engage with refugees and promote their participation in programming. It also seeks to strengthen community self-reliance by exploring opportunities for communities to engage in the digital economy and pursue safe and fair digitally-enabled livelihoods.

Furthermore, the approach taken aligns with the Innovation Service’s values, specifically and intentionally investing in supporting equitable and inclusive digital access across diverse communities and different ages, genders and demographics. Through this programme, the Service aims to put into practice many of the innovation approaches and methodologies utilised within the service to demonstrate first-hand how they can support programme design and delivery.

The programme works as a supporting function to UNHCR operations and aims to enhance our field experimentation and delivery through a four-pillar approach that covers Research and Advocacy, Capacity Building, Field and Operational Support, and Partnerships & Coordination.

Research and Advocacy

Building strong links between research and advocacy is vital. It helps ensure that research can support operational goals and policy change, as well as provide space for thought leadership on emerging issues. Where research, data and evidence highlight areas for advocacy, these will be taken forward at global, regional and country level as applicable with the support of UNHCR Regional Bureaus and Country operations, drawing links with operational activities and coordination as necessary.

Guidance and Capacity Building

In order to scale the impact of the programme across the sector, UNHCR seeks to support humanitarian practitioners in how they design their humanitarian programmes on digital inclusion based on the evidence of what has – and what hasn’t – worked. This requires the structured documentation of learning to create guidance, trainings, and tools for UNHCR, its partners and other stakeholders engaged on the topic.

Field and Operational Support

Through this programme, UNHCR will pilot new approaches at national level, and provide financial support to regional and country operations undertaking these interventions. Operational support builds on learning generated to date, ensuring that staffing resources are matched with the relevant technical support and guidance to meet desired outcomes. Learning from field interventions will be documented and shared with the wider community to help scale emerging and promising practices.

Partnerships & Coordination

In order to achieve the goals of this programme, building strong and comprehensive partnerships is essential. UNHCR is reaching-out across the humanitarian sector, to governments, private sector and communities themselves to leverage new and creative models for engagement and collaboration. Coupled with strong inter-agency coordination, all partners can benefit from each others’ diverse experience, bringing valuable lessons, information, and data to the table to help drive an agenda that challenges assumptions about refugee inclusion at large.

Connectivity for

UNHCR’s Connectivity for Refugees initiative focuses on ensuring no one is left behind in accessing connectivity, and that barriers to digital access are systematically removed to facilitate refugees’ digital inclusion and support their self-reliance.

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Communicating with Communities

Through improved access to connectivity and digital technology, there is greater potential for UNHCR to diversify approaches and adopt new channels to engage with refugees and make humanitarian programming more adaptive and accountable.

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Call for Proposals

UNHCR Innovation Service is happy to announce Call for Proposals that provides targeted financial & technical support to country operations interested in tackling specific challenges relating to Digital Inclusion that have emerged from the previous two funds, operational experience across the organisation and critical research undertaken within the programme.

Click here to learn more and – if you are a UNHCR operation – to express interest in one of the open calls.


Are you working on digital inclusion in contexts of forced displacement and would like to collaborate? Do you have questions or have perspectives to share with us?

Get in touch.