Skype Partners with the UNHCR
Article by George Norman
On 06 Dec 2010
Skype has recently announced that it entered a partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and that as part of this partnership, bespoke Skype technology will connect humanitarian workers in the most remote and dangerous regions of the world. Skype has come up with a low-bandwidth version of its popular VoIP and instant messaging client that will be deployed across 120 hardship locations served by UNHCR staff members around the world. UNHCR employees will be able to use Skype to make free and low-cost voice and video calls over the Internet.

“Skype has removed, at a very practical level, some of the most challenging barriers to communications that we experience in these locations," said Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "This will benefit not only UNHCR staff and their families at home but, potentially, the tens of millions of refugees and other displaced people in the world today.”

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"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," added Antonio Guterres.

Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan are some of the locations where the UNHCR-version of Skype has been tested. Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Chad, Congo, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Uganda are the locations where the software has been made available to 1,010 staff stationed in these remote locations.

Skype and the UNHCR said that by the end of the year they expect the software to be used by more than 2,072 members of staff across 60 UNHCR locations; by the end of 2011 they expect the software to become available to more than 3,000 staff members.

Why does this bit of information deserve to make the headlines? Because this is the first partnership of its kind between Skype and a humanitarian organization.

As part of this partnership, Skype will also help raise money to support computer technology and education for refugees. In this regard Skype will host a fundraising button and will begin a campaign to increase public awareness of UNHCR operations. As part of this campaign, connected users will be presented with messages that encourage them to make a difference.

“We are a company dedicated to using our software to enable the world's conversations and effect social change. Our partnership with UNHCR delivers on this mission in a most extraordinary way,” commented Skype CEO, Tony Bates. “We are excited by the future possibilities of this partnership. Skype truly is useful for everyone, wherever, and whoever you are.”

Additional details on the Skype – UNHCR partnership are available here.



Tags: Skype, UNHCR, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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