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The Somali information sector has been rapidly evolving, with smartphone and phone device usage increasing annually. These devices may be beneficial to humanitarian response actors during various phases of the disaster response cycle: during each of the preparedness, response, and recovery phases. In Somalia, evidence suggests that 86% of adults and the same proportion of youth (15–25 years old) have access to mobile phones and that these devices are increasingly used within all aspects of social or business interactions.
What is more, the telecommunications sector in Somalia is growing rapidly and provides widespread internet coverage, including fibre-optic cables and 4G internet access. This is primarily taken up by youth, who are growing up accustomed to the presence of a digital landscape. According to Gallup, a quarter of Somali youth have internet access, and a fifth reported frequent usage (having accessed the internet within seven days prior to survey; compared to 16.7% and 8% of adults above the age of 25, respectively).
At the same time, organisations that implement humanitarian and development projects still have a low level of understanding regarding this evolving information landscape, the barriers to access as well as the information needs of the population groups they target. Arguably, this knowledge gap greatly hampers the effectiveness of their programming, leading to missed opportunities for improving the connectedness of communities that helps them better anticipate and reply to shocks. It is in this context that the BRCiS Consortium endeavoured to obtain a snapshot of the Somali information ecosystem with a focus on vulnerable youth living in five BRCiS-managed camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia.
Therein, the study followed the InterNews framework on information ecosystems, which outlines eight non-hierarchical dimensions to illustrate the different actors and aspects of information ecosystems, as well as their significance to resilience.
The study employed a robust and iterative mixed-methods approach, inclusive of a comprehensive desk review, a large-scale quantitative survey, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews. The desk review comprised upwards of 50 sources on information ecosystems, youth, and displacement. Subsequently, the main survey was conducted with 883 respondents in Mogadishu, Baidoa, Beledweyne, South Galkayo, and Hobyo. Finally, in each location other than Hobyo, four focus group discussions with basic and smart phone owners split by gender and two key informant interviews with camp leaders and implementing partners were conducted.