Tag Archives: refugees

Technology in the Field: RapidFTR

22 Aug

I came across this little gem the other day, and thought I would share before the technology becomes obsolete, as technologies so quickly do. This piece was particularly striking to me, not only because it fits in nicely with a growing discussion of how technology will continue to shape the field of development and humanitarian relief in the coming years, but because the technology itself comes straight out of New York University.

While NYU Tisch always stands out in my mind as the training grounds for some of my favorite musicians and filmmakers, it is clearly also home to innovators for the humanitarian world. Former NYU Master’s student Jorge Just used his thesis in Tisch’s Interactive Telecommunications Program as an opportunity to expand upon the new RapidFTR app, designed collectively in NYU’s “Design for UNICEF” class and developed by Mr. Just over three years.

The RapidFTR (Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification) app is a “versatile open-source mobile phone application and data storage system” that can be used by humanitarian workers to “collect, sort and share information about unaccompanied and separated children in emergency situations so they can be registered for care services and reunited with their families.” By taking pictures, collecting sufficient data on the child and then being able to quickly share this information, the app allows for expedited reunification between children and families following displacement. It has been able to reduce the time necessary to register information about separated children from more than six weeks to a matter of hours.

The technology is being further developed and implemented by the Child Protection in Emergencies team at UNICEF with funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (go ahead, drool over their incredible projects for a bit). You can read more about how RapidFTR is being used by the Ugandan Red Cross to reunite Congolese refugee children with their families here, or keep an eye on further progress on RapidFTR’s blog. Just another amazing way that mobile technology is being used to shape the future of the field and the futures of children all over the world.

So the question now is: what app are YOU going to design, and how many lives will it change for the better? If you’re tech savvy, I say it’s time to rise to the challenge.


Shameless self-promotion: The press arrives at Nauru

18 Jul

Shameless self-promotion: ‘The press arrives at Nauru’

Publication is the last desperate refuge of the underemployed.

There are the beginnings of a decent little debate in the comments section. Would love to hear from more people, either in the comments section of the article, or here.


Shameless self-promotion: ‘History is repeating itself at Guantánamo Bay’

3 Jul

Shameless self-promotion: ‘History is repeating itself at Guantánamo Bay’

This is even more shameless than the last piece of self-promotion. I scribbled out the first draft of this piece. The final version is a vastly improved thing thanks to co-contributor and real writer Garry Pierre-Pierre. Reading his revised draft was a sharp reminder of just how much power and feeling can be packed into very few words.

From Nauru to NYU: Picks of the Week(s)

24 Jun

Will new Nauru asylum centre deliver Pacific Solution?

The BBC recently became the first media org to gain access to the detention centre set up (or commissioned) by Australia in Nauru. This could be viewed as an important step towards transparency, and certainly the journalist is plenty critical of the whole Australian refugee policy, but I find the whole ‘opening up’ of the centre to be deeply suspicious. The reason that the media is being let in is to try to shift debate, and to cast Australian policy as a merciful and humanitarian, even as it imprisons refugees indefinitely.

Today Marks 20 Year Anniversary of Order that Closed “H.I.V. Prison Camp” at Guantánamo

This one is kind of cheating: I work with the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, and for the past week we’ve been focusing on an oft-forgotten chapter in the history of Guantánamo Bay.

In 1991 the U.S. Govt. began detaining Haitian asylum seekers at Guantánamo. The parallels between the plight of these detainees, and the current detainees at GTMO is striking. The parallels between the case of the Haitians and asylum seekers detained at Nauru by the Australian Govt. are equally so.

Objects of the Journey

Vela hosts work by a bunch of fantastic writers, but it is the power of images rather than words that made this article stand out to me. Undocumented immigrants face a whole host of troubles before they even make it to the U.S., and the way they are preyed upon remains for me one of the most terrible aspects of the Drug War as it has recently been fought in Mexico and Central America. This photo essay documents the undocumented, and does so in a concerned, compassionate way.

Yale, NYU sacrifice academic freedom

I love me some NYU bashing, and I couldn’t agree more that NYU is expanding globally so fast that it really has no idea at what cost (lack of academic integrity and quality of education seem obvious possibilities). However, I’m mostly including this link because I take issue with the sanctimonious tone of the article. Separating the world into free and unfree nations, and denying the possibility of freedoms being won in ‘unfree’ nations seems incredibly simplistic. The idea that the U.S. is a bastion of freedom and virtue rings pretty false, given recent revelations about surveillance, and the House’s decision to allow indefinite detention of citizens.

Web art by Josh Begley

I first learned of Begley’s work through his site that documented every single drone strike by the U.S., but have found his other projects equally compelling. The satirical edge to his activist art is really refreshing, as is the scope of his documentary projects (such as documenting the entire history of the race question on the U.S. census).


Shameless self-promotion: ‘Indefinite Detention shouldn’t be Definitive’

23 May

Shameless self-promotion: ‘Indefinite Detention Shouldn’t be Definitive’

I done wrote something. Then someone done published it.

It was Australia’s treatment of refugees that first got me interested in/concerned about Guantánamo. Now it’s going back the other way: the more I learn about Guantánamo, the more I’m concerned that Australia is borrowing its methods.