Policymakers, humanitarian professionals and scholars have increasingly acknowledged the ‘game changing’ potential of humanitarian technology.1 In Syria, it is a clear feature of humanitarian service delivery. Smartphones, WhatsApp, Facebook and Gmail provide Syrians in country and Syrian refugees with a link to family, news of the conflict and humanitarian support. For humanitarians and their organisations, internet-capable mobile hardware and abundant applications provide critical communication, monitoring and data collection tools.
Mobile technology is likely to remain relevant irrespective of the evolution of the Syrian conflict. Research carried out for this report shows that smartphone ownership, internet access and mobile technology are widespread regardless of what armed group controls a particular area. Communities and business owners adapt and prioritise the rapid establishment of local internet connections, albeit often of poor quality. Internet access is offered for broader community use in most towns via Local Administrative Council (LAC) networks and internet café businesses. Syrians of all ages, outside of remote and rural areas, take advantage of internet access to talk with family and friends through WhatsApp and other communication applications (‘apps’). They are also considerable patrons of social media, particularly Facebook.