"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:
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."
The Capability Approach
"Identifying exactly how ICTs contribute to a process such as social inclusion represents a challenging analytical exercise. Sen’s (1999) capability approach, which conceptualizes development as individual freedom, has been suggested as an alternative conceptual apparatus to analyses of economic impacts or digital divides (Kleine 2013; Zheng and Walsham 2008). Sen (1999) is interested in “the ‘capabilities’ of persons to lead the kind of lives they value—and have reason to value” (p. 18). His approach shifts our focus from the resources that a person has access to, toward the uses that a person can make of the various resources available to them (Clark 2005). Sen (1999) refers to these uses as functionings: “things a person may value doing or being” (p. 75). Capabilities are the set of alternative functionings from which a person is substantially free to choose (Sen 1999). Capabilities can be thought of as the potential functionings that a person values, but they must represent real opportunities or freedoms to achieve particular functionings (Alkire 2005). The existence of capabilities presupposes the availability of resources, which provide the means to achieve an end. Whether people are able to realize particular functionings depends on a range of personal, social, and environmental factors (including social structures and cultural values) that influence both their substantive freedom to do so (their capability set) and the choices that they make (Clark 2005; Robeyns 2005; Zheng 2009)...
Our focus on social inclusion links refugees’ use of ICT with their capabilities to participate in society in ways that they value. We take as our starting point Wilding and Gifford’s (2013) concern with the potential of ICTs to empower refugees “in their quest for agency and control over their current and future circumstances” (p. 497). We argue that, for our participants, social inclusion is the extent to which they are able to effectively participate in their new society and regain control over their lives. We are concerned with how ICT use contributes to their capabilities to achieve such a life...
Thus, the focus of our empirical research is on exploring resettled refugees’ actual ICT use, how this is of value to them in their lives in their host country, and what this suggests about how such use contributes to their opportunities for social inclusion."
"We approached the identification of capabilities associated with refugees’ ICT use by examining what our participants reported they were actually able to achieve (and valued achieving) using ICT. Our analysis highlighted five categories of achieved functionings and their corresponding capabilities that ICT use offers refugees:
While “the sort of participation people are likely to value is unlikely to fall into neat, separate categories” (Notley 2009, p. 1211), we feel that collectively, these five categories of functionings and their corresponding capabilities are a good reflection of the multidimensional nature of social inclusion for these potentially disadvantaged people."
"Our research has a number of implications for policy and programs on social inclusion. First, social inclusion is a multidimensional, relational, and dynamic process, in which the agency of those to be included is a central concern. Interventions that ignore this are susceptible to the imposition of dominant societal norms and values in ways that do not recognize diversity in human lives. Second, any consideration of social inclusion in an information society needs to include the ICT-enabled capabilities that individuals value in constructing meaningful lives. Third, for many individuals in contemporary society, ICTs facilitate the maintenance of transnational connections and identities that matter to them. The promotion of social inclusion for such people, therefore, needs to recognize that their lives are not restricted to their local context. Fourth, the social inclusion of displaced people such as refugees is more than an information problem; it involves communicative and expressive activities that repair disrupted social and cultural lives."
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