For 14 months, Abu Ahmed's family did not know where he was. As a Syrian prisoner with no means of communicating with the outside world, one of Abu's priorities was to let his family know he was still alive. His cellmates were in a similar predicament, so they devised a plan. Lacking a cell phone, they memorized the phone numbers of all their families with the promise that when any detainee was released, they would reach out to the loved ones of those still incarcerated. Thanks to their mobile phones, they were able to contact and reconnect with their loved ones, and Abu was able to locate and join his family in Jordan.
As this story shows, mobile phones are a basic necessity and survival tool, no longer a luxury for Syrians fleeing their war-torn country. LotusFlare is making an impact by providing the Jordanians, including the refugees in that country, with affordable, mobile internet access through the digitization of traditional mobile operators and app-based growth services.
Out of the 1.4 million Syrian refugees seeking asylum in Jordan, 62% are covered by 3G networks, 31% are covered by 2G networks, and 7% have no coverage at all. Although they have a limited income of approximately $2900, refugees spend nearly one-third of their disposable income on connectivity. Upon arrival at the host country, many displaced people request wi-fi and charging stations even before they ask for food, water and shelter, showing that mobile phones play a crucial role in their survival. They rely heavily on vouchers, loans and donations for money, as only a limited amount of work permits are granted to allow refugees to be legally employed. As a result, it is extremely difficult for them to find a reliable job to support themselves. By providing affordable and accessible mobile connectivity, LotusFlare enables the refugees to view travel routes, get information and assistance, communicate with family and friends – both in the host country and at home – and find job opportunities. As an added benefit, having a mobile device leads to autonomy, which decreases the risk of chaos and uncertainty.
Local mobile operators have developed many apps to help various issues which affect refugee life, including legal support, language translation and government information on immigration laws. Refugees prefer wi-fi connection and data over voice and SMS due to the low cost of using apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook. They use these apps to connect with friends and family from Syria and Jordan as well as to share information with other refugees. LotusFlare aims to make helping people such as these part of their mission, not only in Syria but around the world.