Can Big Data Illustrate the Challenges Facing Syrian Refugees in Lebanon?

Project description

As of 2011, over 5 million Syrians have fled their native land, seeking refuge in different countries. The living and social conditions of these refugees and their host communities have recurrently featured as a priority on the policy agendas of the humanitarian and development communities, in addition to decision makers in host countries. The socioeconomic challenges resulting from the massive and protracted influx of refugees has overwhelmed access to essential services (such as access to health care, schooling, water and sanitation) for both refugee and host communities, which in turn has further increased vulnerabilities and worsened conditions. These vulnerabilities are further aggravated by other shocks such as the pandemic and the resulting socioeconomic hardships on host countries.
In facing these challenges, policymakers and development and humanitarian practitioners rely on traditional data sources from official sources to inform their decisions with regards to both host communities as well as Syrian refugees. These sources, such as censuses and surveys, pose a few problems in this context. They can be costly, time-consuming and difficult to collect, and might be inaccurate. Also, they are infrequently updated, which can make the information they contain obsolete, especially within the highly volatile political and socioeconomic context of the Arab region. Policymakers must be able to offer timely and quick responses to the fast-paced and evolving challenges and crises experienced by refugees and their hosts.
A question then arises: are there other data sources that could be utilized by policymakers in crisis conditions? With the advent of the ‘Data Revolution’, we are currently surrounded by a wealth of information, known as “Big Data”. Vast amounts of data are examined in order to extract patterns and insights, and recommendations and solutions are then formulated accordingly. Recently, policymakers have started to appreciate the potential use of big data to complement traditional sources of data for policymaking. This pilot project explores the potential of unconventional data sources in informing policymakers of the conditions and vulnerabilities of Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities.


First name Last name Gender Rank Affiliated Institution Country
Fouad Mrad Male Full Professor Lebanon

Bio: Fouad Mrad has been with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA) in Beirut since January 2010. He was the founding Executive Director of ESCWA regional Technology Centre (ETC) in Jordan (2011 -2017).
He is leading efforts to pilot AI and Big Data projects. He has been advisor and judge for Qatar Foundation TV Program “Stars of Science” (2009-Present). Prior to that he was Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the American University of Beirut (1993-2009).



Scientific field

Political Science

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