Zain, UNHCR and Facebook collaborate to support Connectivity for Refugees initiative in Jordan

  • More than 724,000 refugees to receive free high-speed internet access for five years
  • Initiative addresses the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

At the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development meeting in New York held on 18 September 2016, Zain Group, a mobile operator across the Middle East and Africa, announced a collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Facebook to provide free, open and high-speed Wi-Fi internet connectivity to refugees in the Kingdom of Jordan for five years.

itu_blg-sept-refugees-blgThis service is being provided to refugees and surrounding local communities in key areas identified by the UNHCR, and forms part of its Connectivity for Refugees initiative.

More than 724,000 refugees are registered with the UNHCR in Jordan, originating mainly from neighboring Iraq and Syria, two countries facing ongoing internal unrest that has resulted in the massive displacement of large populations.

“This initiative will enable refugees in Jordan to stay informed with news concerning their circumstances as well as empowering them to utilize the power of the internet to enhance their economic livelihoods, bringing some peace of mind and dignity to their dire situation,” said Scott Gegenheimer, Zain Group CEO and a Broadband Commissioner.

Unlimited Wi-Fi

The connectivity project backed by Zain Group, UNHCR and Facebook will offer unlimited, 24/7 outdoor and indoor Wi-Fi access points through Zain Jordan’s high-speed 4G mobile network, initially in four primary locations across the Kingdom, namely the Princess Basma Center in Sahab in greater Amman; the Al Khaledeya Center in Mafraq; the Princess Basma Center in Tafileh and the Princess Basma Center in Karak.

Reliable internet connectivity is critical to supporting the efforts to make the lives of the refugees as comfortable and dignified as possible, allowing them to maintain contact with their loved ones back in their home countries, amongst other things.

“UNHCR is very pleased to partner and with Facebook and Zain to bring internet access to refugees in Jordan,” said Alan Vernon, Lead for UNHCR’s Connectivity for Refugees Programme. Not only does internet access directly improve the well-being of refugees, but it also enables UNHCR and its partners to communicate more effectively with refugees and deliver improved support to their communities.”

A range of support for refugees

The refugee centers already offer assistance to refugees and vulnerable Jordanians in the form of psychological support, recreational activities, informal education as well as economic empowerment programs and life skills development. The centers also host regular Help Desks run by UNHCR staff in order to address refugee needs such as registration, documentation, health referrals, financial assistance, and protection counselling.

The centers also provide assistance to refugees with special needs and offer various life-enhancing workshops. All these services will be impacted positively by the provision of sound internet connectivity within the centers.

Partnering to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

“Everyone in the world – including the millions of refugees who have been displaced from their homes – deserve access to the opportunities of the internet,” said Kevin Martin, Facebook’s Vice President of Mobile and Global Access Policy, and a Broadband Commissioner. “Our hope is that by collaborating with the UNHCR and Zain Group, refugee communities in Jordan will now be able to connect with their families and friends, share information, and become part of the global digital community.”

This multi-stakeholder collaboration addresses several of the 17 ambitious Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted one year ago by 193 world leaders at the United Nations’ meeting in September 2015 aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring the prosperity for all in the coming 15 years.

This latest partnership touches on several of the SDGs, namely Goal 17, which addresses technology, capacity building and multi-stakeholder partnership targets as well as Goal 4, which seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and the promotion of life-long learning opportunities for all.




  1. Chelsea Thibodeaux · ·

    This collaborative effort to provide internet access to refugees is truly refreshing in a time when most headlines containing the word “refugees” are negative. The refugee crisis is on going and has placed thousands of people far from their homes and lives. Providing a voice to these people through the internet can help them regain some of the dignity lost in having to entirely uproot. It will also allow them to participate in the discussions about how to best address this crisis and aid those in need. The ability to maintain contact with those still in their homelands can also serve as a source of comfort and offer hope that they will be able to return home at some point.

  2. Emily Paxton · ·

    Access to the internet has become a necessity, so the effort to ensure this aspect of life is available to refugees is good to see. Remaining in contact with family members and having access to news stories about their situation is necessary for these refugees to maintain a normal lifestyle even in these not so normal moments. This initiative is a step forward in the refugee crisis.

  3. I enjoyed seeing something positive about refugees in light of the recent controversy surrounding them in the United States. Providing Wifi will help keep refugees informed and updated on what’s going on around the world. I was also pleased to see refugees being offered psychological support.

  4. I enjoyed seeing something positive about refugees in light of the recent controversy surrounding them in the United States. Providing Wifi will help keep refugees informed and updated on what’s going on around the world. I was also pleased to see refugees being offered psychological support.

  5. Shundrika Smith · ·

    This humanitarian project displays the power of relational connectivity and how access to the internet can combat physical displacement. Providing Wi-Fi to refugees will ensure peace of mind to their loved ones, knowledge about the ongoing developments in their home countries, and it might establish hope for new beginnings. So many people dehumanize refugees, and this collaboration will provide a re-humanization effort in the eyes of the world.

  6. I think this is a great initiative that is being taken by these organizations. Internet connectivity can aid the refugees in contacting loved ones back home, as well as staying up-to-date on happenings within their homeland. The internet is a very useful tool, and I’m sure the efforts will be greatly appreciated by the refugees.

  7. Megan Boyanton · ·

    I can really appreciate this service provided by UNHRC, Zain Group and Facebook. This not only exhibits Facebook as an up-and-comer in the political and social realms, but it also proves that social media can surpass its more shallow purposes. Free high-speed Internet access for refugees may not seem like a lot to someone outside of the region, but it gives thousands of people opportunities to maintain their voices internationally on an issue that affects them directly. It also provides them with outlets through which they can document their experiences. In the past, many people haven’t been able to tell their own story, but, through this initiative, refugees can share everything firsthand. That’s important for the past, present and future.

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