Keep in mind that you are dealing with users that rarely have the luxury to have other options; as such you should ensure consistent service and be ready to take appropriate measure if the technology proves to be dysfunctional or outdated.
– We stress the need to think about how your product fits into the whole ecosystem: isn’t there a solution that already exists? Line up clear ideas of business models, don’t postpone them for later.
– An app that does not work anymore or is left not up to date can harm the life of refugees and displaced persons, creating distrust towards technology and the ecosystem of refugee tech. Build tools that the community can take ownership of and maintain even if you disappear.
– A quick warning for products relying on a lot of fresh content: content goes outdated fast. Think twice about your responsibility to keep it updated and your users informed about when it was last edited.
"One of our guiding principles is sustainability. We strongly believe in making sure projects can remain and are consistently available for the people we support. While we cannot understand what it is to be a displaced person, we can understand and sympathize with the frustration of having an irregular or inconsistent service that is changing constantly. This is why we always work to have strong and sustainable relationships with the communities we support by creating simple-functioning, easily accessible services. We recently relaunched our two services – phone distribution and phone repair after we took time to test, compare and research how to make the projects sustainable for as long as there is a need for them in Calais." Refugee Info Bus, France
Ex 1: In Techfugees Innovation Database of tech4refugees projects, almost 50% of the 700+ self-registered projects since 2016 and audited in 2021 had died or stopped. We talk about the "Digital Litter" (see the article below). Most of the website or apps are still out there, but inactive and outdated. One of the main reasons for not continuing is that securing funds for non-profits or created a creating a sustainable business model not based on users' data or money can be challenging for non profits.
Ex 2: Linked with the first example, lots of projects are starting as volunteer work. But volunteer work also has limits and one can't volunteer forever. During our collaboration with Faceless Hackers and the Kenya Red Cross in Kakuma between 2019-2021 to develop E-health Watch, one observation was that due to time capacity and life priorities (which is absolutely understandable), more than half of the initial volunteer team disappeared in the first months of the post-hackathon pilot, leaving the team with 2 developers only, and not the initial skillset of the whole group.
Ex 3: The limits with no implementation partner: ... (to be added)