Digitizing Refugees: The Effect of Technology on Forced Displacement
Georgetown University. Communication, Culture & Technology Graduate Program
This paper examines broadly the role of technology in the lives of refugees and its influence on the trajectory of forced displacement today, a topic that has been covered extensively by the media but has not been as discussed in academic literature. I first examine the positive and negative effects of recent technological advances on the lived experiences of refugees. Technology has benefited refugees in allowing them to maintain relations with friends and family over large distances with improved communication apps and banking systems, in raising awareness about the challenges they face through social and online media, and in making it easier for them to receive aid from humanitarian organizations through the use of modern databases. However, technology has also been used to institute new forms of governmentality over refugees through the process of registration and has created new obligations and pressures on them from relatives still in the homeland. I then look at how states and humanitarian organizations have leveraged technology in formulating policy that deals with displaced people and provide some suggestions on how this can be further done, focusing on three specific sectors: aid distribution, education, and the private sector. At a time when the refugee crisis is reaching unprecedented heights, technology is shaping and will continue to shape in significant ways how states, humanitarian organizations, and refugees themselves are dealing with forced displacement.
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