The partnership will ensure faster and more efficient connectivity to people, who have been forced to flee their homes – and already, equipment is on its way to help displaced Venezuelans in Colombia.
UNHCR staff verify and assist Venezuelan refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants at the recently opened shelter in Boa Vista, Brazil. © UNHCR/Reynesson Damasceno
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and Swedish network and telecommunications company Ericsson have signed a partnership agreement that will facilitate the delivery of internet connectivity in refugee emergencies.
The global partnership will directly support UNHCR’s Refugee Emergency Telecommunications Sector (RETS), a UNHCR-led framework that brings Information Technology (IT) and communications to humanitarian organizations, working in refugee emergencies.
Since 2000, Ericsson’s humanitarian assistance programme, Ericsson Response in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), has deployed volunteers to over 60 missions across 40 countries to deliver connectivity in the wake of natural disasters and medical emergencies. Through its partnership with UNHCR, Ericsson will now also support the response to refugee situations with technology and expert volunteers, helping UNHCR and partners to rapidly meet the needs of forcibly displaced persons.
“UNHCR’s priority at the onset of an emergency is to ensure that the basic needs of forcibly displaced people are met. Information Technology is a key component for enabling the coordination of any humanitarian response,” says Massoumeh Farman-Farmaian, Chief of IT Emergency Preparedness and Response, UNHCR.
“Our partnership with Ericsson will help UNHCR to deliver internet connectivity services faster, further and more efficiently in emergency situations, resulting in more rapid assistance to people that are forced to flee.”
Technology is key to emergency coordination
Technology is an absolutely vital element of UNHCR’s work and responses across the world. IT enables UNHCR to coordinate the delivery of life-saving assistance on the frontline of humanitarian crises where basic commodities are scarce – and in emergency situations, IT tools form the backbone of critical services, from biometric enrollment of refugees and asylum-seekers to interagency coordination.
At the same time, IT is reinforcing the safety, security and welfare of colleagues, operating in some of the world’s most hostile environments. Now, UNHCR’s operations will be benefitting from the long-term expertise from Ericsson.
“For over 20 years, Ericsson’s humanitarian program, Ericsson Response, has played a leading role in supporting global humanitarian response with technology and expertise,” says Lars Ruediger, Programme Director, Ericsson Response.
“Through formalizing our partnership agreement with UNHCR, Ericsson Response will be able to support the forcibly displaced with critical communication infrastructure when it is most needed. We look forward to developing our relationship with the Refugee Emergency Telecommunications Sector through the provision of our technologies and the expertise of our dedicated pool of expert volunteers.”
Under the newly established agreement, Ericsson has already provided equipment and volunteers to support the ongoing delivery of internet services in Colombia, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Venezuelans have sought refuge. Ericsson’s contribution will enable connectivity to be established in remote sites across the country, where UNHCR and partners are working to facilitate access to protection for refugees and migrants.