September 6, 2015 at 6:12 pm #1655Paola BerettaParticipant
Speaking in 2011 about ICT skills and digital inclusion Neelie Kroes discussed how those most at risk of exclusion from digital services and opportunities tend to be already disadvantaged in other ways. In her video talk she refers to senior citizens, the poor, and the less educated. In the Australian context (but not limited to Australia), it is important to also include indigenous Australians; regional, rural and remote communities; people with disabilities, and new migrants (both voluntary migrants and refugees).
Exclusion from digital participation matters because it means exclusion from employment and economic opportunities, social interaction and communication, education, training, health information and government services. For example, there are high quality free educational opportunities available online (such as Coursera and Open2Study) for those with online access and some basic knowledge on how to best utilize the courses on offer.
In this post I look at some of the core challenges to digital inclusion faced by migrants. Creating measures and programs to support digital inclusion for new migrants involves consideration of complex issues that are beyond the limited scope of this post. However, some starting points might include:
Limited English language proficiency poses a barrier to online participation, which can be complicated by low literacy and numeracy skills in an individual’s own native language. In a 2007 study, Chiswick and Miller found out that English language ability is positively related to online access and usage. Therefore, this implies that a low level of English competency results in lower digital participation.
Access to services and opportunities
As it is expected, there is often a lack of awareness about the services and opportunities potentially available in a new environment. In order to bridge this information gap, migrant English education services such as AMEP focus on providing basic language skills and information on how to access essential services and opportunities on the first instance. The first English lessons include for example, how to use public transport, enroll children in school, pay bills and make a doctor’s appointment. Subsequent and more advanced lessons might include how to look for and apply for work, find entertainment and socialising opportunities.
Although vital, an initial orientation to services and opportunities does not necessarily include training on accessing those via online services, which may have to be sought elsewhere. A question then arises on how migrants obtain or are given information about ICT training available to them, possibly in their native language.
Whilst the cost of ICT devices and connections continues to decline, it can still be prohibitive for migrants who might be unemployed or struggling to meet everyday expenses.
In a recent paper, Alam and Imran discuss the importance of online inclusion as a means to create and maintain connections with others. The authors observed that digital technology not only offers opportunities to make new friends (e.g. via social media platforms), but also assists migrants to re-establish and maintain connections with family and friends across the globe. This in turn provided much needed emotional stability and support for those commencing establishing a new life in a new country.
From the points highlighted above it is evident that digital exclusion has a negative impact on all aspects of a migrant’s life. The challenge is to devise solutions to their circumstances and needs with a view to their successful participation and contribution in a new environment.
September 6, 2015 at 7:10 pm #1660Sarah RossParticipant
I really enjoyed the issues you raised. Language is a great barrier but I think you hit on a bigger one which is affordability. It is not only the devices themselves but how much you pay for access. People can be told that you can access it for free via e.g. local council library, but access to that both physically and mentally can still be a barrier.
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