In their talk, entitled "Communication Access for Refugees - How Smartphones and Apps Have Aided and Why Providing Wireless Internet Access Should Be in Humanitarian Aid Toolkits," Kate Coyer, director of the Civil Society and Technology Project at the Center for Media, Data and Society at SPP, and Stefan Roch, doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at CEU, gave a brief overview of the Keleti Wifi / mobile charging project and the ongoing efforts across the region to continue to provide tech support and communication access for refugees.
As refugees began arriving into Budapest in greater and greater numbers in early September, Coyer was struck by the large number of people searching for wifi and places to charge their smartphones. “I thought there must be something we could do that was fast, affordable and flexible,” she explained. “As a researcher, I’m also interested in how we can operationalize this spontaneous, grassroots initiative to continue providing services during a rapidly changing situation and connect with others in the region to build a network of support.”
The wifi hotspots and phone charging stations highlighted a key difference between access and tools. Access relates to infrastructure and connectivity. Tools include mobile apps and resources that provide information and other forms of content. “Access issues are local. You need to be physically present,” Coyer explained. “With this communication access initiative, we could provide necessary infrastructure for refugees to access the information and tools they needed.”