Infrastructure is necessary for communities to be successful. Access to the internet has become one of those necessary infrastructure needs. Madeline Kane has a story about a NGO called NetHope that installs wifi access points in refugee camps.
UNHCR has been setting up refugee camps around the world for six decades, but only recently has it begun stressing the importance of internet connectivity. Refugees need wifi, UNHCR camp manager Marie Beniot told me back in April, on opening day at Lagadikia camp. Among the first questions asked by the Syrian families unpacking their suitcases in Lagadikia was when will we get wifi?
Their need is far from frivolous. The only way for refugees in remote camps to book appointments with the Greek asylum office is via a Skype line, open one hour per day for each language. People also use the web to contact friends and family who have been separated by closing borders or left behind in home countries. Facebook groups spring up to help people find jobs and places to live. WhatsApp and Facebook are the top two services accessed from camp networks.
Wifi is essential because few refugee families can afford a data plan. Many say they have all but exhausted their money and worry about conserving it for an indefinite stay in Greece. The average stay in a refugee camp globally is 17 years.