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Digital Messaging for Settlement and Integration (DMSI) Environmental Scan (2018)

Posted on:
November 25, 2021

What is this research about?

This scan provides a snapshot of the use of digital messaging in direct service delivery by Canadian Immigrant and Refugee-serving organizations. The goal of the national environmental scan was to develop a comprehensive picture and greater understanding of the use of digital technology for settlement information delivery in Canada, including trends, challenges, risks and promising practices. The scan was a baseline for the DMSI project. It provided data to measure and compare in the long term frame of the project.

What do you need to know?

This scan predates the COVID-19 pandemic and provides a useful baseline of where the sector was when it comes to digital literacy, in particular, the use of smartphones and digital messaging in client service delivery.

What did the researchers do?

A mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches were used to collect data.

Phone interviews were conducted with 28 people in 24 interviews (some agencies had multiple representatives in an interview). Two in-person focus groups were run in Toronto, one with 15 front-line workers, and one with 3 managers. Interviewees represented a variety of Settlement sector agencies, from mid-sized to large, urban and rural, front-line workers and management, from cities across the country (Fredericton, Halifax, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver). Representatives also included academics (2), government representatives (2 federal, one provincial) and civic tech sector representatives (4).

More than 90 articles were included in a literature review. They range from peer-reviewed articles to funder reports and unpublished grey literature.

A national survey was conducted. 332 surveys were completed. Frontline workers made up 52.4% of survey respondents. Those in management and leadership made up 47.6% or survey respondents. 96.51% (N=249) of survey respondents indicated that they are IRCC funded.


What did the researchers find?

This environmental scan provides a snapshot of the the current use of digital messaging among immigrant and refugee-serving organizations. It is clear that digital technology, including but also beyond digital messaging, is being used by agencies in direct client service delivery. It has brought increased client access to services and information, created service efficiencies and is an  effective method of service delivery.

Throughout this scan consistent themes emerged in the literature review, interviews/focus groups and survey data:

  • Digital messaging is a viable tool for direct client service delivery and is being used in that way by the Canadian immigrant and refugee-serving sector
  • Agencies lack suitable policies and guidelines for technology use to serve clients.
  • There is a lack of knowledge sharing and transfer of promising and successful practices within the sector around digital service delivery.
  • Funders lack capacity to evaluate, manage and monitor technology requests from the sector.

How can you use this research?

This scan can be useful to researchers looking at the digital messaging ecosystem post-pandemic. In particular, much has been learned and additional research done since this research was conducted. There is interest from all parties in the sector to engage in a collaborative knowledge sharing process. Much in previous research also provides a  framework to create this process. There is no need to reinvent an approach, but to look at what has already been recommended for inspiration.

Creating information products and services for newcomers, especially vulnerable newcomers (not only refugees) requires a similar rigour as creating in-person services. Research suggests a fairly common set of practices and approaches any digital messaging or technology for service delivery project should follow. Service providers can use this and other recent research to continue making the business case for technology investments as operational necessities in client service work.




This scan provides a snapshot of the use of digital messaging in direct service delivery by Canadian Immigrant and Refugee-serving organizations.