The panel discussion on how digitalization can help refugees was kicked off by Mike Butcher from TechCrunch, who moderated the conversation. Butcher said that increasing humanitarianism also often decreases radicalization. Moved to try to helping Syrian refugees, Butcher founded Techfugees, which is a social enterprise that coordinates the tech industry’s response to the refugee crisis.
Next, Paula Schwarz from Startup Aid, spoke of the impetus that lead to Startup Aid. In particular, it was that in the last years there was a lot of motivation and resources for helping refugees. But a lot of that was not sustainable and not structured, so that refugees' needs weren’t met. Startup Aid wants to change this, explained initiator Paula Schwarz. The challenge Startup Aid is currently trying to meet is pairing entrepreneurs and activists. The approach the organization takes is to really frame refugees as users or customers, which, she argued, ensures a quality of service and dignity.
Picking up on the point of dignity, Anne Riechert from ReDi School urged people to recast their thinking about refugees. Why call is the current situation a refugee crisis when it could also be a human potential crisis? Too often refugees are described as victims whereas usually they are survivors.
Anke Domscheit-Berg from ViaEurope organized a hackathon for refugees in Germany in October, similar to the one organized by Mike Butcher in the UK.
The conversation showed that although technology was not going to “solve” the Syrian refugee situation, it can often help scale solutions much faster than governments. The solutions should not be provided for refugees but rather co-created with them, Riechert stressed.