I recently commissioned an article about how Turkish telcos are offering services to the millions of Syrian refugees that have been displaced to conflict at home.
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The article is here, but I wanted to blog about one specific quote in the article as I think it really helps hit home just how important being connected really is.
The quote in question is: “The first thing a refugee asks when they arrive at a camp is not necessarily for water or food, but the password for the Wi-Fi. Many people consider smartphones a luxury, but it is not a luxury for somebody who has left their family behind or who has other family members travelling ahead of them.” Just comprehend that for a moment.
This seems surprising when you first read it but then think for a moment and it appears obvious. People buy their kids mobile phones when they start secondary school as they enter the big world, so imagine if your kids, some younger than secondary school age are a separated from you in a different company alone. A connection enables refugees to contact their families, friends and support networks. It also gives them access to information about services they can get and gives them an identity and, through messaging apps, an address.
This goes way beyond reassuring family that they are ok or checking that family are ok, but can be the first building block for people to build a life in a new place. Food, water and shelter are not the only necessities.
It also shows how important fintech is. Making banking services easy to access and use is vital for these people.
The quote really does bring home the fact that internet access should be a human right.
Governments should be providing free connections to the poor and connections at a similar cost of water to the better off. The UK government has just guaranteed affordable high speed broadband to all the UK population by 2020, through its universal service obligation.