E.g., 11/20/2017
E.g., 11/20/2017

A Global Broadband Plan for Refugees

Policy Briefs
May 2017

A Global Broadband Plan for Refugees

With global displacement at record levels, policymakers and humanitarian organizations increasingly recognize the role communications technology can play in facilitating protection solutions for refugees, both in transit and at destination. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has documented how mobile and Internet connectivity, specifically, enable refugees to remain safe, access health and educational services, build livelihoods, and keep in touch with families and communities.

Yet significant gaps in broadband access, adoption, and usage mean that refugees are often less connected than host populations, many of which face their own connectivity challenges. Refugees living in rural areas, for example, are twice as likely as the global rural population to have no network coverage at all. And more than one-third of all refugees live in an area without the 3G network coverage needed to browse the Internet, use most apps, and conduct video calls.

This policy brief draws on its authors’ diverse experiences—working to assure refugee protection, developing the U.S. broadband plan, and analyzing the economics of broadband networks—to propose a framework for the creation of a global broadband plan for refugees. Through careful scoping of localized challenges and alignment of refugee connectivity efforts with host-country broadband strategies and market forces, such a plan holds the promise of improving the connectivity of the world’s more than 21 million refugees and the communities that host them.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. National Broadband Plans as a Framework for Addressing Connectivity Gaps

III. In Search of an Analogous Plan to Close Connectivity Gaps for Refugees

The Basics of a Global Broadband Strategy for Refugees

IV. Conclusion: Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together