Refugee camps with internet cafes

This comes from one of my favorite Economist articles: Flood, famine and mobile phones

This article is about how technology is effecting the delivery of humanitarian aid. Here are some of the best quotes:

“MY NAME is Mohammed Sokor, writing to you from Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab. Dear Sir, there is an alarming issue here. People are given too few kilograms of food. You must help.”

A crumpled note, delivered to a passing rock star-turned-philanthropist? No, Mr Sokor is a much sharper communicator than that. He texted this appeal from his own mobile phone to the mobiles of two United Nations officials, in London and Nairobi. He got the numbers by surfing at an internet café at the north Kenyan camp.”

Wow. Using a cell phone to ask for more food? In the burned villages of Africa, amongst starvation and devastation the victims are finding ways to make their lives better using mobile technology.

“Family remittances are already a bigger source of transfers to poor countries than government aid. “

Sending money home (whether through money transfers or sites like which allows family members to send vouchers for food or oil to Africa) is not a form of relief we often hear about, but it is targeted and effective.

This article makes clear that when the digital divide is bridged, technology has the potential to revolutionize humanitarian relief.

As a Humanities Major who is also a geek, I am always trying to develop a good explanation of what my role is in the world. A programmer programs, an engineer engineers, but those of us in humanities do not have these easy labels. What I am playing with as an explanation is this: I use technology and my understanding of technology as tools to work on the problems I am interested in fixing, just as I use the English language and Math. Technology, whether a workflow system or cell-phone network, has changed how logistics are coordinated worldwide. More on how to be a geeky humanities major later, I have to vote!

Inspirational Quote:

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
– Walter Bagehot


    1. Hmm, I don’t off-hand, but perhaps try HIAS or the Electronic Frontier Foundation? I know the Berkman Center for Internet and Society does work on usage in the Arab world more generally.

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