Kakuma News Reflector – A Refugee Free Press

Community App Built for Kakuma and Kalobeyei Refugees

Posted in Education, Humanitarian Services, News Updates by KANERE on July 31, 2019

By KANERE staff writer July 2019

Refugees in Kakuma and Kalobeyei will soon have access to a new smartphone application designed to increase access to critical information despite high data costs and poor network coverage. RELAY is a community app developed by REFUNITE, an NGO that is best known for its use of phone technologies to reunite families separated through forced displacement.

RELAY, provides a centralized platform for the dissemination of information such as news alerts. However, unlike other apps that require users to download news directly from the networks, RELAY relies on the distribution of information through peer-to-peer connections between users living together in the same local area.

“Due to unstable internet connections in Kakuma, installation is a key challenge for the roll-out of new phone applications.” However, product owner Philea Adhanti explained, “we are using also file sharing applications like Xender, Shareit and CMTransfer or Bluetooth to pass on the application to People using RELAY staffs inside the communities. After one person has installed the application, they can send it to the phones of other users in their vicinity through file sharing technologies.”

Lack of awareness among users was another challenge raised by Adhanti. “Even though it looks like Relay may be similar to other social media apps, it is more of a close, local community information center than a place to share personal thoughts.”

The current version of RELAY includes an “official” feature that will be used by NGOs and humanitarian organizations who are working in the camp, as well as four other key features including News, Support, Interests and Events. For the latter features, and with the aim of reducing abusive language and antagonistic posts, only accredited uses can post and publish their content in real time, without review by the central team. Some refugees interviewed by KANERE claim that their contributions are sometimes turned down, or and sometimes they are published only after a prolonged review time.

In many ways, RELAY is a game changer for service delivery in the camp and can revolutionize the conventional means of circulating information. Aziz, an Ethiopian student living in Kakuma One, explained, “The number one reason that I like RELAY is that I get access to up-to-date information like scholarship opportunities. I recently saw an African Union scholarship for refugees published on the app. If not for the app, I wouldn’t have seen that opportunity and missed the deadline.”

Relay team introduces and testing App in Kakuma 1/By KANERE

However, some refugees interviewed by KANERE feared that the tool would become a conduit for aid propaganda. Currently Lutheran World Federations (LWF), National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) and Peace Wind Japan are the official users of the app, using the platform to reach out to their target audiences.

Another concern is privacy of the users of the Relay. A representative from the RELAY team claimed that the organization is operating according to the law and with respect for users’ privacy in general.

However, not everyone is convinced. Ekodur, a journalism student at Film Aid, complained to KANERE, “It is a systematic way of stealing information’s from your pocket, I had it before but now I want to remove it from my phone.”

In response of the number of total subscribers, and until the time of publications of this article, RELAY has more than 2000 active subscribers in the camp.

KANERE also confirmed that, Relay APP would be available starting from August 2019 in Android Play Store, an online download centre for android applications.

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