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Moving into a technology land: Exploring the challenges for the refugees in Canada in accessing its computerized infrastructures

Posted on:
July 3, 2019

Dina Sabie, Syed Ishtiaque Ahmed – University of Toronto
COMPASS ’19 – Proceedings of the Conference on Computing & Sustainable Societies, July 3-5, 2019, Accra, Ghana
Association for Computing Machinery
July 3, 2019 | Le 3 juillet 2019

Abstract | Résumé

“While a growing body of literature in HCI [human-computer interaction] is focusing on the initial needs of the refugees soon after their migration, most challenges associated with the long-term process of their integration with the host communities using technology have still remained understudied. This work builds on a 3 year-long fieldwork with the refugees in Canada, extended observations, and interviews with 26 participants (19 refugees, 4 refugee sponsors, and 3 refugee workers) to illustrate how refugees encounter various challenges in accessing necessary services in Canada through its computerized infrastructures. This paper documents the intricacies and nuances of this problem extended over their struggles in obtaining information, getting social support, learning new technologies, securing their digital activities, and the gender dynamics associated with these activities. Our analysis generates several design implications to address these issues. Moreover, we discuss the challenges’ entanglement with some of the broader concerns in HCI regarding infrastructure, inclusion, and mobility.”

Discussion

“[W]e have shown that our refugee participants have access to the physical infrastructure of computing such as digital devices and network connections. However, and as the Canadian lifestyle is heavily dependent on technology, we have presented how the current computing infrastructure is excluding refugees from acquiring information and accessing services such as jobs and public transport. We also show the five sources refugees use to learn about technology, services, and information access and illustrated the advantages and disadvantages of each one of them. We shed the light onto some safety and security issues our refugees were susceptible to. Moreover, we demonstrate how refugee women face more exclusion in terms of acquiring digital skills and improving personal traits due to limited educational level, cultural constraints, and family duties. While economic migrants face similar issues as evidenced by other studies [5,12], refugees are more susceptible to being marginalized when it comes to accessing the computing infrastructure because of their limited educational background, lack of knowledge in the local language, and the trauma they have experienced.”

Broader Lessons

“Beyond making the immediate design implications, we position our results within the larger scope of mobility, social inclusion, and infrastructure to build more sustainable societies. From our findings, we conclude that there is an urgent need to think about how to build a new social capital for the refugees because the refugees’ social capital was minimized when they moved into a new environment. As Young [82] has suggested, the host community has a duty to step forward and help in the newcomers’ integration process. The welcoming society can reach out and establish bridges between itself and the new group. This can increase refugees’ social capital leading to social inclusion. From a researcher perspective, such an approach requires broader initiatives that go beyond technology design. The research community can help by taking a supporting role and inspire and motivate people to take the lead. Further research is needed to find ways how the host community can better ‘welcome’ and ‘embrace’ the migrants both online and offline.

For inclusion to happen, our refugees have to go through an extensive re-appropriation process in order to adapt to the computing system in Canada. As Jackson et al. [43] demonstrate, an infrastructure is built on certain assumptions and some infrastructures are built on each other so it is difficult to make major adjustments to them later on. In Canada, the computing systems that provide information and services were likely designed for the local populace, including skilled worker migrants, who are often educated, are competent in the local language, and have certain techno-skills obtained during their education or work. Refugees tend to not have these qualities. Neither the systems nor the refugees are to blame here, but the current events that are taking place around the world are causing mass migrations, mainly from limited techno-communities moving into computer-based environments. As a result, the HCI community is obliged to think about designing a new type of infrastructure that is not dependent on language, education, or social capital. As for the existing systems which cannot be altered easily, we need applications that can ‘bridge gaps’ between the two extreme users to make them accessible.

Lastly, it is important to address the gender implications for refugee research. Our study highlights how gender plays an important role in how well the assimilation process is progressing. Our refugee women fall behind men in terms of learning opportunities and getting access to information and services due to personal values and family duties. Other HCI researchers have also pointed this out. For example, Ginelo et al. [23] note that making ICT available for everyone in Bangladesh over the years did not promote digital inclusiveness for women because females access technologies based on their individual’s demographic profile and location. Breslin and Wadhwa [10] illustrate that women’s use of technology tends to be based on stereotypical notions that females do not like or are not skilled at technologies. This show that this problem has also appeared in many another context, and yet not enough working solutions have been implemented. When offering help for these women, we need to consider Young’s [82] notion of Rhetoric, where the helper learns the ways of communication and values of the newcomer. There are few researchers who do take this notion into consideration. For example, to design digital tools that teach English vocabulary for migrants, Ahmad et al. [5] note that migrant women need friendly and non-rigid learning environment because their men are forced to go out into the society, therefore they overcome the challenges quicker than women. Similarly, Talhouk et al. [67] use a female-run radio show to deliver health information for women refugees because female displaced population feel more comfortable in discussing personal issues with others of the same sex. As a result, the HCI community can take a supporting role here by creating frameworks that design for women with special circumstances and skills.”

Download the full article| Télécharger l’article complet (en anglais) :

https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3332481

You can't access their presentation/paper without academic access (so frustrating), but here's a video of the presentation at the conference:

Also from this conference | Également de cette conférence:

Identity at the margins: examining refugee experiences with digital identity systems in Lebanon, Jordan, and Uganda

This paper examines refugees’ experiences with and perspectives on the digital identity systems used by humanitarian organizations to collect, manage, and share their personal data. Through a qualitative study with 198 refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Uganda, we show how existing humanitarian identity systems present numerous challenges for refugees. For example, we find that refugees have little to no knowledge of the institutional systems and processes through which their personal data is managed and used. In addition, refugees are typically not able to exercise agency with regard to data that is collected about them (e.g., given choices about the data collected). At the same time, we show how refugees make active efforts to negotiate the various identities available to them, consciously weighing the benefits and constraints associated with different statuses to maximize their access to services, eligibility for employment, and spatial mobility. We use Bardzell’s lens of feminist interaction design [8] to make sense of these findings and suggest a path forward that engages refugees in the design of improved identity management systems.

Source:

Research at a Glance is designed to inform the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) community and other interested parties about recently published, policy-relevant research from government, academic and NGO sources. The views expressed in the documents described do not necessarily reflect those of IRCC.

Summary

While a growing body of literature in HCI [human-computer interaction] is focusing on the initial needs of the refugees soon after their migration, most challenges associated with the long-term process of their integration with the host communities using technology have still remained understudied. This work builds on a 3 year-long fieldwork with the refugees in Canada, extended observations, and interviews with 26 participants (19 refugees, 4 refugee sponsors, and 3 refugee workers) to illustrate how refugees encounter various challenges in accessing necessary services in Canada through its computerized infrastructures.
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