Yuri Milner - Tech for Refugees

Tech For Refugees: How Yuri Milner Is Building His Vision for a Tech-Driven Humanitarian Future

Technology plays a vital role in improving the quality of life of refugees and displaced people. A UN Refugee Agency report highlights smartphone access and reliable internet as issues of fundamental importance. And, technology has revolutionised the ways that many organisations provide humanitarian relief.

Yuri Milner founded Tech For Refugees in 2022 to advance tech-powered refugee relief efforts. He is a co-founder of the Breakthrough Prize, which celebrates advances in science and mathematics. He also launched the Breakthrough Initiatives and the Breakthrough Junior Challenge in 2015.

Here’s how Tech For Refugees is driving the future of humanitarian aid by supporting tech-enabled refugee programmes.

Areas Where Technology Can Support Refugees

Beyond facilitating access to internet connectivity and communications, there are many ways technology can support refugees. For instance, through online fundraising, coordinating essential aid deliveries, or providing education and entertainment.

Tech For Refugees works with several tech industry leaders. Funding from Yuri Milner’s initiative helps these tech partners support refugees through technology in the following ways.

Entertainment And Education

Tech For Refugees first teamed up with Spotify in spring 2022. The collaboration allowed Spotify to offer its premium subscription service to Ukrainian refugees for free. In addition, Spotify embarked on a separate multi-year campaign to harness the power of music and audio to help heal children affected by war.

Tech For Refugees also partners with UNICEF USA to support education for Ukrainian children. UNICEF USA works with local authorities and communities in Ukraine to provide young people with safe, accessible learning opportunities.

Host And Housing Networks

Airbnb.org leverages Airbnb’s technology and services to provide safe, temporary stays for people in times of crisis. The organisation joined forces with Tech For Refugees to provide short-term housing for up to 100,000 people fleeing Ukraine at no cost.

Since February 2022, over 33,000 Airbnb Hosts in more than 90 countries and regions have opted into the programme.

Aid Shipments and Transport Logistics

Flexport.org is one of Tech For Refugees’ original tech partners. Flexport.org optimises logistics for social and environmental impact. The organisation works with trusted aid agencies to deliver relief supplies and help organisations meet their sustainability goals.

Over six months in 2022, Flexport.org’s aid shipments reached more than six million Ukrainians. Tech For Refugees then gave Flexport.org $8 million for further relief operations in the Horn of Africa and Pakistan.

Digital Access to Vital Information and Support

Tech For Refugees has enabled two humanitarian organisations to launch and scale information platforms for refugees and others in need.

Support from the initiative helped Welcome.US develop its innovative Welcome Connect platform. Through Welcome Connect, U.S. citizens can become refugee sponsors and serve displaced Ukrainians.

Additionally, a three-year commitment from Tech For Refugees will allow the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to grow its Signpost platform. Signpost is a community-led service that puts vital information into the hands of people displaced by conflict and disaster. The Signpost project recently won a prestigious United Nations SDG Action Award.

Safe Transport

People settling in a new country may need to travel to access education, employment, or critical programmes and services. However, many refugees lack access to safe, reliable transport.

To meet this need, Tech For Refugees has partnered with the ride-hailing company Uber. One Tech For Refugees programme allows users of NeedsMap (a data-matching platform) who were impacted by the earthquake in Turkey to buy Uber ride credits.

Another Tech For Refugees programme has enabled the IRC to access Uber credits. As a result, the IRC can meet refugees’ transport needs and facilitate travel for its staff.

Learn more about Tech For Refugees.

About Yuri Milner

Yuri Milner is a billionaire who made his wealth through technology investment. His company DST Global is a leading tech investor, with a portfolio that has included internet giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Alibaba.

In 2012, Yuri Milner joined Warren Buffett and Melinda and Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge. In doing so, he vowed to donate the majority of his wealth to charitable causes. To realise this commitment, he set up the Breakthrough Foundation. This organisation supports causes like the Breakthrough Prize, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, and the Breakthrough Initiatives.

Yuri Milner started his career as a theoretical physicist, and science is still his great passion. He has collected some of his ideas about science, humanity, and the Universe in his short book Eureka Manifesto: The Mission for Our Civilisation (2021).



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