Skype has partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Humanitarian workers in the most remote parts of the world will soon have a new and low-cost way to communicate with their colleagues, friends, and families thanks to an unprecedented partnership between Skype and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
We’ve developed a bespoke, low-bandwidth version of Skype for use in 120 hardship locations served by UNHCR staff members around the world. Aid workers in these locations are typically separated from their families for months at a time, sometimes with very little notice, and have limited opportunities for communication.
Currently, all UNHCR employees have to pay for personal phone calls. Now, the UNHCR version of Skype provides both free and low-cost voice and video calls over the Internet even when connection quality is poor.
The new software has been tested successfully in Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan and is now available to 1,010 staff stationed in remote locations in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Chad, Congo, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Uganda.
By the end of 2010, we plan for that to grow to more than 2,072 members of staff across 60 UNHCR locations including Kenya, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. By the end of 2011, the aim is for Skype to be in at least 80% of UNHCR hardship locations and available to more than 3,000 staff members.
Mohammad Faisal from UNHCR and Antoine Bertout from Skype discuss the techncial challenges and solutions of the partnership project.
We’re also exploring the development of a communications solution that will benefit refugees more directly. Using the knowledge and experience from the deployment of Skype to UNHCR staff, the solution will aim to allow refugees to reach their family and friends across borders and will also be used to help with repatriation, resettlement and family reunification – watch this space.
Skype is dedicated to using our software to enable immersive experiences and effect social change by breaking down the barriers to connect people all over the world. Our partnership with UNHCR delivers on this mission in a most extraordinary way.
Understanding the need to secure financial resources for refugees and to further support this partnership, Skype is contributing financially to UNHCR. We’ll begin a campaign to increase public awareness of UNHCR operations and help raise additional funds. To find out more and donate, visit our partnership website.