Skype announced this week the launch of a bespoke, low-bandwidth version of their VOIP software, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The UNHCR-version of Skype, will be deployment across 120 hardship locations served by UNHCR staff members, and provide Humanitarian workers in the most remote parts of the world a new low-cost way to communicate with colleagues, friends, and families.
Aid workers are typically separated from their families for months at a time, sometimes with very little notice, and have limited opportunities for communication. Skype will provide both free and low-cost voice and video calls over the Internet even when accessed through low connectivity networks. For those stationed abroad, this announcement couldn’t come at a better time. As we enter the holiday season, this new version of Skype will provide these humanitarians with a way to keep in touch with their loved ones.
The new software has been tested successfully in Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan and is now being rolled out in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Chad, Congo, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Uganda.
Skype and UNHCR are subsequently hope that this is the first stages in the development of a communications solution that can be used to benefit refugees more directly. For example allow refugees to reach family and friends across borders, as well as facilitate protection operations, including repatriation, resettlement and family reunification.
Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees commented on the new partnership stating:
For us, helping the world’s displaced is not just about delivering the basics of food and shelter but ensuring they are able to access all the benefits of modernity, including the ability to communicate regularly with friends and family. Our partnership with a technological innovator like Skype significantly advances our aspirations in this regard