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Including Immigrants in Canadian Society: What Role do ICTs Play? (2007)

Posted on:
September 24, 2020

What is this research about?

This report examines how and why immigrants to Canada make use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) as they move through the stages of immigration.

What do you need to know?

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are central to the shifts taking place within immigration by providing greater transnational communication opportunities for immigrants, and by providing different and accessible cultural mediums such as online local newspapers in languages other than English and French, newsgroups, chat rooms, and home country internet sites. It is therefore important to conduct critical research that explores the relationship between ICTs and social and economic inclusion for immigrants to Canada.

In 2007, vVery little research existed that identifies the ways in which immigrants make use of ICTs in their everyday lives. This report created an initial body of knowledge and information that helps contribute to our understanding of the use of ICTs in settlement and inclusion.

The focus of the report is the public library sector, since public libraries offer a free and accessible venue for the use of ICTs for information gathering. However, the report points to the need to incorporate ICTs in federally funded Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) training to help immigrants to become more adept at using technologies in the settlement process generally and for employment and integration. In that context the report points to the importance of providing online/blended learning opportunities in settlement language programs as a means to enhance language and ICT skills.

What did the researchers do?

A challenge of current discussions about immigrant social inclusion is the tendency to generalize both immigrants and inclusion. The researchers' response to this challenge is to operationalize the concept of social inclusion into concrete implications for immigrants including employment seeking, social networks, civic engagement, and various types of literacy (including technological and cultural literacy).

The authors conducted an in-depth literature review to assess the state of knowledge in the area of immigrant ICT use and social inclusion. They also conducted interviews with practitioners at organizations across Canada that provide ICT services to immigrants. They targeted diverse cities where immigrants tend to settle including Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, and  Calgary. They chose a variety of organizations including settlement organizations, public libraries, and community networks. Different cities and types of organizations were chosen to provide a variety of perspectives regarding what is a complex and site specific issue. We looked for regional differences as well as the way that these organizations enable or limit a spectrum of ICT uses by their clients.

What did the researchers find?

  • Socio-economic conditions of source countries are strong predictors of ICT uptake and use. Those immigrants who come from wealthier, more educated countries are more likely to have ICT experience when they arrive and use ICTs when they are here. Since most new immigrants come from these source countries, many have ICT experience and use them with relative ease. However, beginner computer users still exist.
  • Although many immigrants are familiar with ICTs when they arrive in Canada, training is needed to teach immigrants how to use ICTs “as we do in Canada.” Immigrants from family class, seniors (longer established and new arrivals), and refugees may also need basic computer training.
  • Providing continuing core funding for ICT access and training provision to community networks, libraries, and ISOs is a key recommendation.
  • ICTs have significantly affected employment practices for immigrants through online education, job searching capabilities, and the provision of online government and settlement information. The researchers' findings reveal that this may not necessarily be beneficial because Canadian bureaucratic structures and online interfaces are difficult to navigate for new users.

How can you use this research?

This report is useful for both the content as well as methodology, which could be replicated to continue researching the role ICTs play in newcomer inclusion. Newcomer serving agencies can use the researchers' interview guide to guide their own internal research about their organization and what they know about ICT use among newcomers and communities that access services (and those who do not).


This report examines how and why immigrants to Canada make use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) as they move through the stages of immigration.