In a speech at the United Nations on Saturday, Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg proposed bringing internet connections to Syrian refugee camps.
"[Internet access] will help refugees better access support from the aid community and maintain their links to families," Zuckerberg said. "Data can help us make smarter decisions but only if you can interpret it quickly and with confidence, so we want to help the UN make decisions that will advance our goals."
For the more than four million Syrians in refugee camps, basic supplies like food, water, and health care support are dwindling. Zuckerberg argues that refugees having internet access would make it easier for the U.N. to track their needs and communicate with them. He did not elaborate on the plans in his speech, but said it was part of Facebook's plan to bring internet access to remote locations around the world.
"First we need to work together to make connecting the world a priority for everyone, from government to industry and to civil society," Zuckerberg said in his speech. "Today I am pleased to announce that Facebook is partnering with the One Campaign, organizations, leaders and public figures all over the world, to launch a global campaign to support a connectivity declaration. The declaration recognises internet access as an important enabler of human rights."
The One Campaign is a non-profit, co-funded by Bono, which targets global poverty, aiming to eliminate it by 2030.
Internet access would no doubt be beneficial to asylum seekers trying to get their bearings and file for refugee status, and could mean that the world would be able to see their ordeals first hand via social media. But their immediate needs, including food, water, and sanitation remain urgent.
The U.N. estimates that the humanitarian aid shortfall in refugee camps adds up to $2.69 billion in countries bordering Syria alone, where the majority of Syrian refugees are waiting for help or to move on to Europe.