● More than 724,000 refugees to receive free high-speed internet access for five years
● Initiative addresses the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
At the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development meeting in New York held on 18 September 2016, Zain Group, a mobile operator across the Middle East and Africa, announced a collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Facebook to provide free, open and high-speed Wi-Fi internet connectivity to refugees in the Kingdom of Jordan for five years.
This service is being provided to refugees and surrounding local communities in key areas identified by the UNHCR, and forms part of its Connectivity for Refugees initiative.
More than 724,000 refugees are registered with the UNHCR in Jordan, originating mainly from neighboring Iraq and Syria, two countries facing ongoing internal unrest that has resulted in the massive displacement of large populations.
“This initiative will enable refugees in Jordan to stay informed with news concerning their circumstances as well as empowering them to utilize the power of the internet to enhance their economic livelihoods, bringing some peace of mind and dignity to their dire situation,” said Scott Gegenheimer, Zain Group CEO and a Broadband Commissioner.
The connectivity project backed by Zain Group, UNHCR and Facebook will offer unlimited, 24/7 outdoor and indoor Wi-Fi access points through Zain Jordan’s high-speed 4G mobile network, initially in four primary locations across the Kingdom, namely the Princess Basma Center in Sahab in greater Amman; the Al Khaledeya Center in Mafraq; the Princess Basma Center in Tafileh and the Princess Basma Center in Karak.
Reliable internet connectivity is critical to supporting the efforts to make the lives of the refugees as comfortable and dignified as possible, allowing them to maintain contact with their loved ones back in their home countries, amongst other things.
“UNHCR is very pleased to partner and with Facebook and Zain to bring internet access to refugees in Jordan,” said Alan Vernon, Lead for UNHCR’s Connectivity for Refugees Programme. “Not only does internet access directly improve the well-being of refugees, but it also enables UNHCR and its partners to communicate more effectively with refugees and deliver improved support to their communities.”
A range of support for refugees
The refugee centers already offer assistance to refugees and vulnerable Jordanians in the form of psychological support, recreational activities, informal education as well as economic empowerment programs and life skills development. The centers also host regular Help Desks run by UNHCR staff in order to address refugee needs such as registration, documentation, health referrals, financial assistance, and protection counselling.
The centers also provide assistance to refugees with special needs and offer various life-enhancing workshops. All these services will be impacted positively by the provision of sound internet connectivity within the centers.
Partnering to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
“Everyone in the world – including the millions of refugees who have been displaced from their homes – deserve access to the opportunities of the internet,” said Kevin Martin, Facebook’s Vice President of Mobile and Global Access Policy, and a Broadband Commissioner. “Our hope is that by collaborating with the UNHCR and Zain Group, refugee communities in Jordan will now be able to connect with their families and friends, share information, and become part of the global digital community.”
This multi-stakeholder collaboration addresses several of the 17 ambitious Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted one year ago by 193 world leaders at the United Nations’ meeting in September 2015 aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring the prosperity for all in the coming 15 years.
This latest partnership touches on several of the SDGs, namely Goal 17, which addresses technology, capacity building and multi-stakeholder partnership targets as well as Goal 4, which seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and the promotion of life-long learning opportunities for all.