Tech companies step up to help with global refugee crisis

Steven Loeb · September 21, 2016 · Short URL:

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Airbnb, Twitter and Uber among the 51 companies pledging $650M

There's currently a big refugee crisis going on, especially in Syria, (though you wouldn't know it by watching American news, which can only bother to mention it when a candidate's son decides to compare people to candy), and American businesses are stepping up big time to help.

On Tuesday, the White House announced that 51 American companies, with more than $775 billion in combined annual revenue, have decided to pledge more than $650 million to help support 6.3 million refugees from 20 countries around the world.

Among those 51 companies were numerous big names from the tech industry. They included:

  • Airbnb, which is developing a program to allow hosts on its platform put up refugee families;
  • Coursera, which launched Coursera for Refugees, allowin an unlimited number of non-profits that work with refugees to apply for at least one year of group financial aid.
  • Facebook, which partnerered with NetHope to bring Wi-Fi connectivity to 35 locations across Greece
  • Google, which pledged funding and technical expertise to organizations enabling 10,000 out-of-school primary school-aged refugees in Lebanon to access free formal education through a new primary school classroom model in 2017
  • HP, which established 6 HP Learning Studios in Lebanon and Jordan to engage refugee youth in developing skills, while helping to give refugee students access to education technology, and providing employment re-skilling for adults
  • LinkedIn, which said it will grow its refugee initiative, Welcoming Talent, to additional countries beyond Sweden. 
  • Microsoft pledges to build upon existing partnerships with the U.N. and NGOs such as UNHCR to invest in technology that provides refugees with broader access to education, professional skills, and economic opportunity. 
  • SAP pledges to educate 10,000 refugee youth across four nations with coding skills during its “Refugee Code Week,” in Octtober.
  • Twilio pledges to offer credits and discounts for refugee-serving organizations to access Twilio’s communication platform.
  • Twitter pledged to support NGOs that directly assist refugees with an “Ads for Good” advertising grant of $50,000, and to provide best practices trainings to refugee-serving organizations in Europe and the United States.
  • Uber said it would work with U.S. resettlement agencies to provide independent work opportunities to refugees through its platform and connect potential refugee drivers with affordable, low-risk leases and auto discounts.
  • Zynga pledges to work with resettlement agencies globally to make Words with Friends EDU, the educational version of Words with Friends, focused on teaching English academic vocabulary, readily and freely available to displaced people who are looking to develop their English language skills.

These pledges to help were a respond to President Obama's Call to Action in June, in which he called American businesses to use their resources to assist refugees in three areas: education, employment and enablement.

Airbnb, Coursera, Google, HP, IBM, LinkedIn, Microsoft and TripAdvisor were among those companies that immiedately signed on as founding partners.

"There are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today, the highest number on record since the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) began collecting statistics.  More than 21 million of these people have crossed international borders in search of safety and are registered as refugees," the White House said in a statement.

"A crisis of this scale requires more than government action. In issuing the Call to Action, President Obama challenged the U.S. private sector to draw on its unique expertise, resources and entrepreneurial spirit to help refugees regain control over their lives and integrate into their new communities. Their response is unprecedented."

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