Conflict and Fragility

Policy briefs

How smartphones help Syrian refugees in Lebanon

30 Jul 2018 - 08:26

Apping and resilience: How smartphones help Syrian refugees in Lebanon negotiate the precarity of displacement

Mobile phones are widely used by Syrian refugees in Lebanon where over ninety percent of refugee households have access to a mobile phone, in many cases an internet-enabled smartphone. This high degree of digital connectivity has given refugees a new tool for managing their precarious environment.

This policy brief argues that smartphones are a key instrument for helping refugees revive, maintain and leverage social capital in ways that support their livelihoods. Drawing on the concepts of bonding and bridging social capital, it considers three ways in which smartphones do play this role: 1) by helping refugees to resuscitate and leverage old social networks; 2) by helping refugees to maintain and leverage contacts with potential employers; 3) by helping refugees to maintain and leverage other external support networks, such as connections with aid agencies.

It also highlights high usage costs as a major obstacle to optimising refugees’ use of mobile phones in Lebanon. Urging international and Lebanese stakeholders to take steps to support the use of mobile phones as livelihood tools among Syrian refugees, this policy brief outlines measures that may cushion the impact of the high costs and allow for easier connectivity.

This policy brief is second in the series of publications capturing the outcomes of research conducted under the Surviving2Thriving project, funded by the Nationale Postcode Loterij. Within this project the Clingendael Institute looked at the protection in the region agenda in Lebanon in order to identify approaches that could be implemented by the key stakeholders: donors, aid agencies and national actors – in order to improve the quality of asylum in the country.