Type of practice:
Aware of the needs of the migrant and refugee population moving through Colombian territory and considering the magnitude and other border-related characteristics, IOM Colombia decided to use new technologies to capture information, characterize the population, and monitor the flows. At the same time, this initiative provides the opportunity for the same population to access the internet for free, reconnect with loved ones, and receive self-protection messages.
Through the "Wifi Analytics" initiative, 61 wifi connection points (by August 2023) have been identified in various strategically chosen departments. These points are selected due to the high flows of people in mobility, primarily originating from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (hereafter Venezuela), and they allow for the collection of information about demographic characteristics, needs, risks, and user movements.
Among these strategically located points, there are air and land transport terminals, roads, borders, service points, among others. Those are located in more than 19 municipalities across the country, including Antioquia, Atlántico, Bolívar, Bogotá D.C., Casanare, Cesar, Cundinamarca, La Guajira, Norte de Santander, Tolima, among others.
By providing short, self-administered forms at the beginning of each connection to the Captive Wifi Network, the strategy enables the adaptation of the content of each form based on the provided responses and the connection points of each user. This also allows for further inquiry into the user's intentions and needs, becoming inputs for generating potential alerts.
Initially designed to address mixed flows of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, changes in migratory dynamics have gradually led to the expansion of the initiative's scope to other groups of migrants and refugees from different countries.
As a result, the information provided in the forms and the content shared with users has been translated into languages other than Spanish, such as English, French, and Haitian Creole, at some of the connection points.
Benefit and Impact
From June 2021 to October 2022, around 85,000 surveys were conducted, characterizing over 212,000 refugees and migrants, representing an investment of 144,500 USD over 16 months.
To extend the initiative's reach and effectiveness, it became essential to create a variety of communication materials and deploy them extensively. These included posters featuring QR codes, stickers placed on seats within public transportation at bus terminals, and the dissemination of messages through social media platforms, among other strategies.
Regarding the guiding principles of the Global Compact for Migration, although this project is created and managed by the IOM, the Colombian Government has played a significant role in its implementation at various levels. Specifically, the collected information (excluding users’ email addresses) has been shared with different state actors at the governmental level. The purpose of sharing this information is to allow these actors to use it as a consultation tool to improve the evidence base of their programs and policies.
In this sense, as part of the IOM’s collaboration with the government, national sovereignty is respected through international cooperation. This collaborative effort ensures that the project not only addresses the connectivity needs of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees but also provides valuable tools to assist governments in their decision-making processes. Additionally, the practice respects existing data protection, privacy, and other relevant regulations to ensure the protection of individuals’ information.
Furthermore, in certain areas, the Wi-Fi points are located in public entities. Consequently, the IOM has worked with municipalities and governments to install the service in these spaces. It has also engaged in dialogues with different levels of government to promote the project. In this way, the project has facilitated conversations between the IOM and the government, as well as between different levels of government (national and local) during information dissemination events.
Moreover, the project’s implementation has involved interaction with Colombian immigration authorities for Wi-Fi points located in migration centers. Regarding due process, we believe it is not applicable to the scope and nature of this project. As mentioned earlier, the initiative primarily focuses on providing connectivity and valuable information to support government decision-making processes related to the needs of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.
• Selected points should belong to assistance organizations, whether NGOs, local GIFMMs, or legally recognized private entities. In other words, installations should be avoided in locations owned by individuals, as the provision of the service depends on the individual’s willingness, and the installations require electricity, a cost that cannot be borne by an individual.
• Collaboration with focal points familiar with the target territory is crucial for decision-making regarding the project, and prior engagement with local entities to explain the operation helps prevent misinformation.
• The possibility of relocating points should be considered as part of the strategy. Despite geographical selection being based on territorial information, it is possible that during the pilot testing or implementation, low attendance of refugees and migrants in the initially chosen sites might be observed, making it advisable to relocate them.
From a technical standpoint:
• Due to the format of self-administered forms, the questions used had to be reformulated for easy understanding by the survey respondents and to minimize interpretation bias.
• The length of the forms had to be reconsidered to reduce response times and maintain internet service provision as a priority for refugees and migrants.
• Although the tool allows for adding, modifying, or discarding questions in the form, there should be a reasonable periodicity for implementing variations to maintain comparability, comprehensiveness, and the quality of statistics.
Recommendations(if the practice is to be replicated)
• Simultaneously, conduct frequent mapping exercises of the types of needs, facilities, services, and humanitarian assistance in order to guide the refugee and migrant population towards appropriate and relevant services based on their profiles and information provided in the forms.
• Prioritize the use of concise forms and make adjustments, such as incorporating new languages in response to the emergence of new groups from different origins and languages.
• Establish clear terms of reference with the provider and maintain a single service provider at the national level to ensure easy monitoring through control dashboards of the provided service and connection effectiveness.
• Ensure regular coordination between local teams in each department, state, and/or district – as appropriate to the local context – where connection points are located, and the technical team responsible for refining and analyzing the gathered information.
• Expand the number of connection points to proactively track migratory flows and provide robust and high-quality information for national and regional decision-making.
Regarding ethical collection of data, the survey required to access the WIFI service does not involve the collection of personal data. It only requires an email account to be filled in. Furthermore, the information requested in the survey remains anonymous as no names or identification numbers are required.
The only means of identifying a user is through their email account. Therefore, no sensitive information is involved in the project. Additionally, the email address is solely used to grant users access to the service on multiple occasions. Moreover, when the information collected through the survey is shared (with governments, for example), the email addresses of users are not included.
1. By accessing the wireless network, you acknowledge that you are of legal age, have read and understood and agree to be bound by this agreement. In case you are a minor, make sure you access the network under the supervision of an adult.
2. Wireless network service is provided by the owners and is entirely at their discretion. Your access to the network may be blocked, suspended or terminated at any time and for any reason.
3. You agree not to use the wireless network for any purpose that is unlawful and assume full responsibility for your actions.
4. The wireless network is provided "as is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied.
5. We respect your privacy, we do not spy on your activities, but we cannot guarantee security against hackers, viruses, worms.
6. The provision of the service is free up to one hour of navigation per session.
7. The user is responsible for the use of the internet in applications and websites and is clear that there will be no relationship between the internet service provider, IOM and the owner of the website or application, nor the acceptance of its contents or services.
To summarize, the information collected through the survey cannot be linked to an individual as no identifying information is requested. The survey is designed in a way that ensures the anonymity of the users, thereby preventing any possibility of identifying them through the collected data.