ICT aids social inclusion in 5 ways – new AUT research on refugees

‘Information and Communication Technology and the Social Inclusion of Refugees’ by Antonio Díaz Andrade and Bill Doolin, Auckland University of Technology, has been published in the June edition of MIS Quarterly (MIS Quarterly download charges apply).

The paper explores “How does ICT use by resettled refugees contribute to their social inclusion?”including but going beyond theoretical discussions. It looks at how use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) actually helped social inclusion of over 50 refugees resettled in New Zealand. These refugees took part in the 2020 Trust’s Refugee Programme, funded by the Ministry of Education and part of 2020’s wider Computers in Homes programme.

Study of social inclusion in practice

The authors observe that refugees “face the challenge of building new lives in countries typically not of their choosing” often with “the risk of resettled refugees being excluded from full participation in society.” Generally, combating social exclusion is by mitigating disadvantages, whereas social inclusion is by proactively creating opportunities and by individuals actively taking part.  Use of ICT “in a self determined manner” to participate in society is a (or even ‘the’) basis for social inclusion, and ICT use by refugees is an exceptional opportunity to study how this occurs in practice.

5 capabilities enabled by ICT

ICT enables five key capabilities, which lead to significant achievements in agency and well-being
They identify five capabilities enabled by ICT that help refugees achieve agency (the ability to act independently and make free choices) and well-being; interact with and function in NZ society; have increased continuity with the past and increased sense of belonging; with reduced stress and reduced social isolation. They are

  1. to participate in an information society
  2. to communicate effectively
  3. to understand a new society
  4. to be socially connected and
  5. to express a cultural identity.

Implications for social inclusion

Andrade and Doolin suggest that their explanation of how ICT use contributes to refugees social inclusion is useful in other social inclusion contexts, and has implications for policy and programmes on social inclusion:

  • it is a complex process, and independent actions and free choice of those to be included is central
  • needs to include ICT-enabled capabilities that individuals value in constructing meaningful lives
  • needs to recognize that their lives are not restricted to their local context
  • involves communicative and expressive activities that repair disrupted social and cultural lives.

All in all, this research illustrates the ways ICT resources and capabilities, as enabled by the Computers in Homes programme, are necessary for individuals to effectively participate in society and be socially included.

More information

The abstract is below; the full paper is published in the June edition of MIS Quarterly (MIS Quarterly download charges apply) and can also be obtained by emailing Antonio Díaz Andrade at AUT.

The social inclusion of newly resettled refugees is a significant issue confronting both refugees and their host societies. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are increasingly viewed as a useful resource in programs that provide settlement services or promote participation in society. This paper moves beyond the conventional discussion on the digital divide to explore what people are actually able to do and achieve with ICTs. We draw on an analysis of the use of ICTs for particular purposes by more than 50 resettled refugees to develop an explanation of the process by which ICT use contributes to their social inclusion. We propose that ICT constitutes a resource from which a set of five valuable capabilities is derived: to participate in an information society, to communicate effectively, to understand a new society, to be socially connected, and to express a cultural identity. In realizing these capabilities through ICT use, refugees exercise their agency and enhance their well-being in ways that assist them to function effectively in a new society and regain control over their disrupted lives.