The Challenge: Over 100,000 refugees in Lebanon utilize Facebook groups as a way to share and acquire information, communicate concerns, and highlight important issues affecting them or their communities. How can UNHCR and its network of refugee volunteers leverage technology to increase response times to high-priority issues, counter fake news and fraudulent claims, and ultimately create a scalable mass comms system built around Facebook groups?
The solution & approach: Utilize human inputs and ongoing data streams to train and optimize machine learning technologies to filter and prioritize incoming Facebook group content. Then, on top of the AI, build a robust communication and monitoring platform that offers real-time insights and tracking capabilities on key areas of concern.
The challenge: 1M refugees equates to a lot of questions and real-time needs. Typically, call centers are used to help handle such requests. However, managing call centers can get expensive, and as international aid flows for refugees continues to decline, more cost-effective communication tools are required.
The solution & approach: Develop a Arabic speaking chatbot built on top of Facebook Messenger that can initially handle questions related to location-specific healthcare services. Instead of having to call a hotline and ask where the right UNHCR partner hospital or primary health care center is, a user can quickly engage with Noor and get the location and directions to the right facility based on the services they require. Overtime, Noor can scale to including other location-specific refugee services.
The challenge: Lebanon has harsh winters that expose hundreds of thousands of refugee families to extremely cold temperatures and life-threatening conditions. How can winter response plans be optimized to serve those most in need in real-time without relying on daily/weekly human field visits and static altitude maps? How can we know right now if someone is exposed to freezing indoor temperatures and may need assistance?
The solution & approach: Leverage cost-efficient smart sensor boards and IoT frameworks to monitor real-time temperature conditions within vulnerable refugee shelters and share that data through an easy-to-use client facing dashboard.
HiL, the Humanitarian Innovation Lab, is a full-time engineering / design team dedicated to building tech-based solutions to improve services and outcomes for refugees in Lebanon. HiL is funded by UNHCR Lebanon and is operated by the Kayany Foundation.
The Kayany Foundation is a Lebanese based NGO that offers government accredited education programs to over 3,500 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, the region home to the largest refugee population in the country. In addition to education, Kayany also offers nutritional programs and psychosocial support to students and their families. In 2016, Kayany was awarded with the Lenon Ono Grant for Peace, and continues to maintain strategic partnerships with organizations like the Malala Fund, Expertise France and the EU. Kayany’s on-the-ground approach to outreach and community engagement, linked with their highly credible refugee program offerings, creates a unique platform for HiL to connect with a diverse groups of end users within refugee communities and build products with proper feedback loops in place.
Lebanon has the highest rate of refugees per capita in the world. Nearly 1 in 4 people in Lebanon is a refugee. Over 1M refugees in Lebanon are living in diverse shelter conditions across the entire country, facing various challenges and experiences. Therefore, both refugees and host communities in Lebanon are in need of innovative solutions that can help ease the strain on local state services and infrastructure and provide better outcomes.
HiL’s work to inspire tech-based innovations to support the refugee response in Lebanon began In June, 2016, when HiL’s product lead, Mike Clarke, organized a 3-day hackathon with UNHCR and partners UNICEF and UNOCHA. The hackathon was held at the Beirut Digital District, and over the course of 3-days, 75+ engineers from around Lebanon worked together on building various solutions to key agency challenges. The three winning teams from that event then entered an incubation period at HiL where they could further develop their ideas and prototypes into scalable, field-tested, solutions. KwikSense is one of the three teams that demonstrated great progress with their IoT shelter monitoring system, and continues to be incubated and supported at HiL. Another solution, Vaxynations, is now piloting their mobile health diary app with Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health, which UNICEF is also helping to implement.
In June, 2017, the work of HiL transitioned away from pure incubation support to a hub for product designers and engineers to work directly with UNHCR program units to prototype, test, and deploy custom solutions to key refugee needs and challenges. It is within this framework that HiL will continue to grow with UNHCR and explore more ways that technology can improve current refugee response efforts in Lebanon.
What exactly is HiL trying to achieve?
At its core, HiL is all about improving the modern refugee experience through technology. More broadly, HiL aims to develop a human-centric innovation model that kickstarts new conversations, approaches, and examples of how technology can be utilized in humanitarian and development efforts.
What role do refugees play in HiL?
We leverage a refugee advisory committee and weekly field interactions to ensure constant user feedback and assumption-free development cycles.
You can find us on the 3rd floor of the Berytech building in Mathaf, Beirut, across from the French Embassy.