How is technology changing the patterns, practice and politics of migration?  And how is technology being deployed in refugee camps, in ways that might empower or disempower migrants? What data is being collected about migrants, how is it being used and who is controlling it?

Migrants using smart phones to map out routes, connect with compatriots in host cities and link up with smugglers was common imagery during the Syrian refugee crisis. But the situation is far from similar in other regions. Much of migration is happening within regions rather than from poorer countries to richer countries (despite what the media typically presents). This raises questions around how migration disputes might be regulated (e.g. between migrant and broker), including the role of customary or sharia law, the evolving role of mobile money and hawalas in intersecting with brokers, and the ways technology alters relationships between protection service providers (e.g. ICRC) and migrants.

As part of the ERC ConflictNet project, we have launched a Media and Migration Observatory.

Dr. Eleanor Marchant’s report, put together in collaboration with UNHCR’s Innovation Service, looks at the rise in the last 5 years of efforts among humanitarian organizations to provide Internet connectivity directly to refugees or other communities displaced by conflict in what has become known as connectivity as aid. This means that humanitarian organizations are increasingly involved in the kind of Internet governance decision-making that would normally be the purview of governments and Internet service providers. This report dives into this decision-making process and looks at the evidence about how difficult decisions are made about, for example, what kind of content refugees can or cannot access when they go online. It concludes by arguing for a more systematic and transparent approach to the governance of Internet networks for refugees, one that incorporates the views and experiences of the refugees more fully.