Bringing connectivity to refugee settlements across East Africa

East Africa, and Uganda in particular, hosts some of the largest refugee populations in the world. Avanti is committed to mobilising its satellite technology to support refugees, host communities and humanitarian organisations in the region through providing access to connectivity in the remotest of locations.

The Social Innovation Academy (SINA)

In July 2019, Avanti partnered with the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) to provide solar powered satellite broadband to their Bidi Bidi site. This is the first of three installations that Avanti will install in the refugee settlement.  SINA’s site is off grid, in a very remote location and is now able to provide its beneficiaries with access to the internet and an ICT lab.

SINA tackles failing education and resulting unemployment in East Africa through creating self-organised learning spaces, where disadvantaged youth and refugees unleash their potential for positive change as social entrepreneurs.

The satellite broadband is being used by SINA’s beneficiaries for access to job and grant applications, self-learning websites, researching project and enterprise ideas, online mentorship, independent news, reconnecting with relatives and the creation of social media pages for start-ups.

SINA’s connected centre is being used by over 100 people on a daily basis including SINA members as well as teachers and youth from the surrounding area. Refugees and the host communities are using their smartphones as well as laptops provided by Avanti to get online.

SINA founder Etienne Salborn acknowledges that, “A stable and fast internet connection is a requirement for self-learning and the creation of opportunities for our SINA Community in the Bidi Bidi refugee camp. Without electricity, in the camp, we are extremely grateful to have a solar satellite internet solution in place from Avanti”.

Since knowledge is power, the internet has allowed refugees and the host community to gain access to information essential for self-determination, self-learning, and personal development through education. Social enterprises have emerged, which are solving local challenges while providing a dignified income”, says SINA founder Etienne Salborn.

Countries that do not have the infrastructure for widespread digital connectivity are bracing for the worst. As the uncertainty with crisis wears on, some countries will be left behind. However, Avanti’s digital connectivity has created a digital resilience for SINA. Etienne notes that, “As the situation with COVID-19 worsened and the first cases of the virus had been confirmed in the nearby communities, the lockdown measures became increasingly difficult in the refugee settlement. Because the AVANTI internet can be accessed from a 100m radius, it offered a safe way to stay connected and access crucial information, while maintaining social distance.”

Partnering with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency

Following the success of the SINA project, Avanti is expanding its impact in East Africa and connecting further sites in refugee settlements. Through 2020, Avanti is working with UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency, as a corporate partner donating solar powered satellite broadband connectivity and laptops to seven UNHCR sites in remote refugee settlements in Uganda.

Avanti will be connecting sites in Palabek, Imvepi, Bidi Bidi, Kiryandongo, Maaji II and Rhino Camp refugee settlements throughout this project. The settlements, predominantly hosting refugees from ongoing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, are remote and off grid.

Avanti announced this contribution at the first UN Global Refugee Forum in Geneva in December 2019 and is committed to supporting UNHCR’s work through the provision of connectivity, bridging the digital divide and increasing opportunities for people in some of the most disconnected locations.

Avanti CEO, Kyle Whitehill commented “This is a big step for Avanti in terms of our commitment to Africa and the opportunity we can provide the developing regions in our network. Given the magnitude of refugees living across Africa, our work with UNHCR will allow us to increase our efforts in connecting the world, enabling people to build themselves a better future’.

Click here to find out more about UNHCR work.

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