Information: More Important than Nourishment

What role does a smartphone play for refugees on their long journey to a foreign country? Noor Nazrobi surveyed Afghan refugees on their smartphone usage. In his Day 2 "re:fugees" track talk on smartphones as life savers for refugees, he presented ideas on how to improve the lives of refugees.

"A smartphone is part of my personal identity, which I carry with me", stressed Noor Nazrobi in his session. In his PhD research at the University of Siegen, he looks to research and improve the flow and distribution of information to and amongst refugees. His thesis argues that information is more important than nourishment because information influences live-changing decisions.

Where do I go next? Who do I pay to help me on my journey? Is my family doing OK? These types of questions are more readily answered with the use of smartphone. “A smartphone helps me to help myself”, Nazrobi iterates. People smugglers are more prone to take advantage of those refugees who have no other source of information. Most refugees also only carry small amounts of cash with them so as not to be robbed. This makes calls back home, asking for money, essential for survival.

But beyond the tactile, a smartphone can do so much more: looking at family photos or listening to a favourite song can boost moral for the arduous journey ahead. Once in Germany, smartphones can ease life and transition. Chat groups in refugee centres serve as information portals, map apps ease orientation in a new place. However, smartphones also run the risk of alienation. Speaking only in their native language, refugees are in danger of falling into a parallel world.

Nazrobi aims to support app developers and give them tips on identifying the most important functions that refugees need. His main concern throughout his research: "German authorities often refuse to engage with my research and often block my efforts to collect and analyse data. Their current position hampers efforts on migration and refugee research activities."