Press Release: Leading Broadband Experts Convene to Develop Global Broadband Plan for Refugees

A group of leading experts in broadband policy today announced an effort to develop a plan to meet the broadband connectivity goal set by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) that “all refugees, and the communities that host them, are connected to mobile networks and the Internet so that they can leverage these technologies to improve their lives.”  As many studies have shown, refugees depend on broadband technologies to keep connected to families and their communities, to obtain critical services such as education, health care, and job training, as well as to achieve economic self-sufficiency.

The effort will be supported by the World Bank, USA for UNHCR, and the Tent Foundation, which is mobilizing the private sector to improve the lives and livelihoods of the more than 20 million people who have been forcibly displaced around the globe.  As noted by Anne-Marie Grey, the Executive Director and CEO of USA for UNHCR, “Currently, refugees in rural areas are twice as likely as the global rural population to lack connectivity. This absence of connection is costly. It means lack of job opportunities, reduced educational opportunities, and diminished dignity on the journey for the men, women and children forced to flee their homes. We support this plan to identify effective and efficient solutions for connecting refugees worldwide."

The effort will be overseen by the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility of the New School. Professor T. Alexander Aleinikoff, Director of the Zolberg Institute and the former United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, said “All agree that connectivity has become essential to helping refugees remain safe, providing them health and educational services, and to creating economic opportunities. The Zolberg Institute welcomes this opportunity to bring its deep understanding of refugees to issues surrounding connectivity.”

Blair Levin, who directed the writing of the National Broadband Plan for the United States and has worked with many cities, states, and countries on their broadband strategies, will coordinate the effort. Levin, currently a non-resident Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution, noted that “we have designed this effort to provide a systemic approach to refugee connectivity that takes into account opportunities created by technology developments, lessons learned in addressing connectivity needs around the world, and the priorities of countries that host refugee and migrant populations, including those expressed in national broadband plans.“

The project team, responsible for writing the report, will be Quadra Partners, LLC, a strategic-advisory firm providing integrated expertise across business, finance, and public policy in the context of converging communications technologies. Quadra Partners' founders bring decades of experience serving senior executives and investors, including senior positions at McKinsey and Company and at Bernstein Research, as well as serving in senior positions at the Federal Communications Commission across several administrations. Quadra will work with with teams in selected countries to provide additional insight into the current state of broadband policy in those countries. Quadra partner Paul de Sa said “we are excited by the opportunity to bring the latest thinking on communications technology, markets, and policy to the critical challenge of connecting refugees worldwide.”  In addition, Amina Fazlullah, a long-time public interest advocate on broadband policy and Mozilla Tech Policy Fellow, will lead the effort on policies related to key applications to improve the lives and economic prospects for refugees.

The idea for the Project was first discussed in an article by Mr.. Levin, Mr. Aleinikoff, and Mr. de Sa published by the Migration Policy Institute in May, 2017. As the article noted, both countries and refugees face the same three challenges: ensuring that affordable, abundant bandwidth reaches everyone, ensuring that all have the tools and means to adopt broadband, and utilizing the broadband platform to improve the delivery of public goods and services.  The article noted the different means by which countries and those serving refugees seek to address those challenges and close the gaps between those goals and the current situation.

Following up on the analysis of the article, the Project will have three major objectives:

  • To examine the current situation for refugees and broadband and propose a framework so that, by coordinating the government approach with the philanthropic efforts, the broadband gaps can be addressed more effectively for both residents of the host country and refugees.
  • To propose specific action steps for government, philanthropic, assistance organizations, and the private sector for a select set of countries, specifically Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia.
  • To propose specific action steps for all stakeholders to scale up those efforts to address the broadband needs of the global refugee population and their host countries.

For further information about the Project go to or contact Aaron Alberico at


Press ReleaseAlyssa Kropp