The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) through its Digital Access, Inclusion and Participation Programme is accepting applications for its Community-led connectivity solutions.
Community networks are decentralized networks which leverage the potential for low-cost communication technology to support affordable, locally owned and managed communication infrastructure. Rather than centered in private enterprise, they are driven by local community members who take the lead in the deployment, governance and maintenance of physical communications infrastructure.
They usually provide small-scale public networks based on WiFi, or sometimes cellular mobile services or fiber connections. The number of fully fledged Community Networks in the world is still relatively small, mainly due to limited awareness of these new opportunities to self-provide communications infrastructure, but also due to regulatory barriers and human capacity constraints that are present in many countries, especially in the global South.
Scope and Objectives
- Community networks and community-led connectivity solutions can play an important role in meeting the needs of refugees for better connectivity, as they provide an opportunity to emphasize the communication needs of excluded groups, specifically marginalized community members less likely to adopt technologies i.e. older persons, people with disabilities etc.
- The potential to encourage self-provision of infrastructure also matches the aims of the Global Compact on Refugees – one of its four key objectives is to “enhance refugee self-reliance”. In this respect there are a number of additional potential benefits to community-based infrastructure deployment that may be particularly appropriate in forced displacement and other similar resource-low contexts, encouraged by the close physical proximity and tight social relationships between the members of the local community and those involved in the network.
- These include:
- Local control over how the network is operated and the types of content that are provided over the network. This can allow the use of the network to more closely reflect the needs of the communities served, provided there is representation of different groups in the design.
- Creation of local opportunities for jobs and fostering entrepreneurship, not only in support of the network directly, but also in the use of the connectivity by local enterprises.
- Retention of more funds within the community resulting from the low usage costs and the income generated by residents working to support the network.
- Fostering a sense of agency within the community which can amplify their sense of capability in being able to help to improve the quality of life of community members. This may also then encourage other types of collaborative efforts to improve local livelihoods.
This will depend on the specific challenge but generally they are unable to provide more than USD 50,000 to ensure that a number of different country operations can benefit from the available support.
Only UNHCR country operations are able to apply to the challenge and one submission is accepted per operation. This Expression of Interest should command the support of senior management within the operation.
For the Call for Proposals, awarding of funds will be based on the following criteria equally weighted:
- Challenge: Framing of the Challenge and evidence / data to support it with a key focus on inclusive community engagement, leadership and feedback response.
- Solution: Articulation of the solution in context addressing key aspects covered in the background notes. Specific attention will be give to proposed levels of community engagement / meaningful participation considering diversity and inclusion.
- Impact: Potential Impact of the solution in not only in terms of the number of community members supported, but also how the intervention would affect them in their daily lives and build broader community resilience.
- Feasibility: Based on approach, administration, tentative budget a determination on how viable the project will be. Specific consideration will be given to sustainability strategies including community self-management.
For more information, visit https://www.unhcr.org/innovation/digital-inclusion-call/