In September 2015, the body of Aylan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian migrant, washed up on a Turkish beach. The boy had fallen off a rubber raft provided by a smuggler who had promised the boy’s father a motorboat. As the startling images of the drowned boy spread, they prompted an outpouring of humanitarian aid—including from the tech sector, which wanted to help prevent the next Aylan from drowning. Knowing that many refugees have access to cellphones, volunteers around the world began developing apps and other tools to help guide refugees on their journeys, adding to the innovative work under way at humanitarian organizations.
The resulting technologies are already helping refugees gather crucial information, reconnect with lost relatives, and establish a legal identity in new countries. Technologies still being developed promise to take the place of translators and perhaps even nurses and doctors.
Here are what some current and future tools look like.