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The IRC and tech partners launch digital initiative to combat misinformation for Venezuelan refugees and displaced populations in Colombia

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  • The platform - InfoPalante - is the most recent instance of the Signpost project, which operates globally to provide life-saving information to vulnerable populations including refugees and people fleeing crisis.
  • Signpost uses context-appropriate social media channels to create two-way messaging with users, allowing the platform to adapt content contextualized to the community. Signpost has reached approximately two million users around the world.
  • Tripadvisor, Jigsaw, Zendesk, Nethope, and others are supporting the IRC in the expansion, providing critical financial support and in-kind expertise in technology and product design.

New York, NY, September 17, 2020 --- Today, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), with support from Tripadvisor, Jigsaw, Zendesk, and Nethope, launched *InfoPalante, *a digital platform to help displaced populations and Venezuelan refugees living in Colombia. Users will be able to access crucial information on civil and legal rights, jobs, and access to healthcare. The platform provides a detailed map of services and social media channels for the community to provide feedback and questions.

Nearly five million have fled Venezuela since 2013 due to the ongoing violence, economic collapse, and humanitarian crisis, with most Venezuelans seeking refuge in Colombia. Information on lifesaving services is disjointed with significant gaps, making migrants, refugees, and the displaced populations in the country especially vulnerable to misinformation, further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding from all four tech companies will support the implementation and delivery of InfoPalante. In addition, Google's technology incubator Jigsaw, in partnership with Zendesk, will provide in-kind support and technology expertise to increase the platform's efficiency, user experience, and reach. Zendesk's Help Center technology, including WhatsApp and Facebook messenger integrations, provides critical information and two-way communication with clients. The IRC is also partnering with local initiatives such as Estoy en la Frontera, a local information service, to continuously adapt and respond to community feedback.

"Tripadvisor has supported Signpost over the last 5 years because we know and understand the value that trustworthy information, accessible in one's native language, can have for people to make informed decisions when looking to rebuild their lives," said Steve Kaufer, CEO of Tripadvisor. "Signpost is an essential tool to help deliver critical information to refugees, asylum seekers and crisis-affected communities that need access to vital services, especially during a global pandemic. The Tripadvisor Foundation is excited to continue our partnership with the IRC on this significant expansion of Signpost in Colombia."

"Google has been closely supporting the efforts of the International Rescue Committee and the development of Signpost since its early days, not only with financial contributions, but with the technical expertise of volunteers," says Patricia Georgiou, Head of Partnerships at Jigsaw. "As such, we're proud to continue that legacy of support with Jigsaw, to increase Signpost's efficiency, user experience, and reach."

Meghan Lopez, the IRC's Regional Director of Latin America, said, "Once Venezuelans arrive in Colombia, they lack information about where to go, how to find work, what services are available to them, even where to live safely. Access to timely and accurate information is especially crucial for vulnerable populations fleeing crisis who are in dire need of localized information, and, what's more, are at specific risk to COVID-19. Clear communications and trustworthy sources of information about their options for safety and services, and information about COVID-19, will save lives."

*InfoPalante *will support IRC's COVID-19 response by providing users with reliable information on preventative measures and safety guidelines. *InfoPalante's *digital-first approach is also well-suited to operate within an outbreak where face-to-face community engagement is impossible.

The IRC is committed to filling information gaps across all of Latin America, not just in Colombia. Signpost is currently active in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, called CuentaNos, and is launching in Mexico in the next month. Signpost was first launched in 2015 by the IRC and Mercy Corps in Greece, to respond directly to refugees and asylum seekers reaching its shores during the height of the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.