Data-Driven Collaboration: Using Technology to Support Refugee Management in Moldova

The Challenge

Due to the war in Ukraine starting February 24, 2022, Moldova has been faced with a massive influx of refugees. In just over one month the number of refugees reached over 380,000, representing almost 15% of the Moldovan population. This created enormous pressure on the government, particularly the Bureau of Migration and Asylum, who had to assess and process this sudden and significant movement across the border between Moldova and Ukraine.

The Approach

​Through a collaboration with private sector partners, two services were developed for the government to better respond to the refugee crisis. Firstly, mobile data was analyzed and processed into a refugee mobility dashboard, available to the government, which provides a situational analysis on refugees’ location in the country. Secondly, in collaboration with a telecommunication company and another private sector partner, a multi-needs assessment survey was shared via SMS to the list of prepay numbers distributed to Ukrainian refugees. The survey results were automatically processed into a second dashboard.

The Benefits

Through successful collaboration with private sector actors, telecom data was leveraged to improve government decision-making and refugee management support. The approach can be replicated for a wide range of sectors, new services supporting the government and strengthens the use of data-driven policymaking during crises. The initiative is helping Moldova manage the large influx of refugees from Ukraine, which is essential to delivering SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities. By using mobile data and SMS surveys to better understand refugee needs and locations, the government can more efficiently provide resources such as housing, healthcare, education and employment opportunities. This further helps to address the inequalities faced by refugees by identifying their needs and allocate resources accordingly. This in turn supports SDG 10 Reduced inequality.



refugees arrived in Moldova within just over one month, representing almost 15% of the Modovan population.

The context​

The ongoing war in Ukraine has forced many people to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring countries, including the Republic of Moldova. Here they face numerous challenges, particularly as the war is also affecting the Republic of Moldova’s own political, economic, social, security and environmental fragility.

National and local public authorities have quickly responded to the immediate needs of the refugee population, but limited capacities make matters difficult in the medium-to-long term.

The speed of the influx gave little time for the government to effectively manage the process. A lack of information on where refugees were and where they moved onto hindered assessments and subsequent decision-making. In pursuit of a socio-economic response to the ongoing crisis, the Bureau of Migration and Asylum sought support from UNDP and private sector partners to implement various digital solutions to better understand refugee movement and their needs.

Leveraging private sector data for government

Since the beginning of war in Ukraine, Orange Moldova has distributed (for free) special prepaid communication kits, which included: 29 MDL (local currency) credit, a free data services bundle and 10 minutes per day of free international calls towards Ukraine. The kits were distributed by employee volunteers at customs’ points, in refugee camps and freely in any Orange Moldova shops.

In support of policymakers’ efforts, UNDP Moldova expanded its previous partnership with Orange Moldova to develop a Refugees Mobility Dashboard. Based on anonymised mobile phone data, three datasets were created and placed on the dashboard:

  • Prepaid users first call location
  • Prepaid users current location
  • Location of “roamers” (those using non-Moldovan mobile phone numbers)

The dashboard provides a situational analysis using these datasets by providing data collected over the past 3 days, with a breakdown by locality and - in the capital – sub-locality.

Figure 1: Dashboard
Source: UNDP/Moldova

A multi-needs assessment survey was distributed to the refugee population in Moldova thanks to an existing partnership with the cloud-based collaboration platform and Orange Moldova. In June 2022, an SMS was sent to every refugee who had been given the free communication kit with a link survey. This link was sent with an incentive. The first SMS offered free minutes for calls and a follow up offered free internet.

The survey provided a quick, cost-effective and efficient way to collect data from refugees about their needs, profile and future plans. More than 800 answers were collected in the span of a month, with a very small team monitoring the survey. By automatically converting and updating the data into a dashboard, the government had direct access to survey results without any wait for data processing.

Figure 2: Survey - which was available in both Ukrainian and English. | UNDP/Moldova
Figure 3: Dashboard showing results of the survey, as available to the government. | UNDP/Moldova

How can better data contribute to better policy and solve this crisis? ​

By leveraging existing sources such as mobile phone data and combining private sector partnerships, cost-effective and fast digital solutions can support the government in crisis response, improve public services and provide rapid assessment for further policymaking. Specifically, mobility data on refugees and multi-needs assessment surveys can support government policymaking and development policymaking in a wide range of sectors, such as

  • Prioritising improvements to public services, based on refugees needs and location.
  • Shaping policies to support labour market integration by considering refugees location and profile, particularly academic qualification.
  • Targeting support to municipalities and localities with the largest refugee population.
  • Managing transport and mobility issues.

Where do we go from here?​

The success of projects like this one has bolstered collaboration between private sector actors, in particular within the vibrant ICT community in Moldova. This can lead to further partnerships cross a wider range of sectors. One possible next step would be to apply a similar approach within other government departments and to address other public services.

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