Ericsson mobile app reconnects refugees

Ericsson mobile app reconnects refugees
Co-founders David and Christopher Troensegaard Mikkelsen and refugee Mansour
Swedish telecom firm Ericsson has launched a new mobile phone application which aims to reunite African families that have been torn apart by war or natural disaster.

The program is endorsed by the Clinton Global Initiative and was unveiled at the group’s annual meeting in New York.

“We are really showing how important mobile technology is,” said Hans Vestberg, President and CEO of Ericsson. “This is actually solving a very, very big challenge in the world.”

The Refugees United project, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Uganda-based mobile operator MTN, will help refugees use mobile phones to register themselves, search for loved ones and reconnect via an anonymous database.

The project started with a pilot deployment in northern Uganda at the beginning of September and is now being extended to other camps in eastern Africa, reported to be home to over five million people.

The information registered may be accessed by both refugees and NGOs that care for displaced people and the UNHCR welcome the Swedish firm’s commitment to assistance aid.

“The role of the private sector is increasingly important for humanitarian assistance. Lending their knowledge and expertise to support the refugee cause is crucial as many of these projects would otherwise be outside of our reach,” said António Guterres at UNHCR.

The pilot project utilized MTN’s network in Uganda with a reported 4,500 refugees already signed up to the database. Refugees are reconnected with loved ones using mobile text messaging (SMS) or mobile internet.

António Guterres explained that the choice of mobile phone technology was an obvious one.

“Today mobile phones are everywhere. Utilizing this readily available technology for a good cause to enable refugees to connect with and reach out to family members they have lost contact with is fundamental.”

Refugees United will stand for the creation, maintenance and updating of the database, while Ericsson will provide the mobile application, technology and systems integration to enable the application in mobile networks.

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