This Scoping Review discusses the effective use of the Internet for the provision of integral information to new immigrants.
The Scoping Review includes information gathered from available research in the fields of communications, library science, web design, web internationalization, information science, technology studies, immigration studies, settlement studies, media studies, and several other areas. It considers barriers to online information gathering that are systemic to any immigrant population. These include issues of linguistic competency in the dominant language(s) of the adopted country (in this case, Canada’s official languages, English and French); issues of cultural competency, including research into the provision of online information in more culturally-appropriate ways and the development of online environments that accommodate a range of culturally diverse information finding practices; and issues of illiteracy even in the language of one’s home country—this discussion includes a summary and examination of cutting edge research into online provision of information in the context of illiteracy or semi literacy in either the dominant language of the adopted country or that of the source country, or both.
This Scoping Review offers critical comparison and analysis of several websites that have been identified as sites that follow some of the best practices for website design that are outlined in the previous section of the review. It also considers technical barriers to the provision of multilanguage information, as well as solutions to the most common technical barriers. In addition, it presents a short discussion of the use of new and emerging web 2.0 and social media technologies.
Existing surveys and research that explore the use of the Internet by immigrants suggest that immigrants have high levels of home computer and internet use (Veenhof, Wellman & Hogan, 2008; Aizlewood & Doody, 2002). Statistics from the General Social Survey 2000 and the General Social Survey 2003 indicate that immigrants are more likely than Canadian-born individuals to use the Internet to communicate with friends and family. Veenhof et al. (2008) note that immigrants have, on average, relatively high levels of education, which is a factor associated with increased internet use.
According to Caidi, Allard, and Dechief (2008) new immigrants pass through three distinct stages of information needs:immediate, intermediate, and integration. New immigrants, as they have been defined by the Ministry of Attorney General for the purposes of this project, include immigrants who are newcomers who are in the process of settling into Canada and have not yet become Canadian citizens. Their needs are therefore described substantially by the first and second of Caidi et al.’s stages. During the immediate stage of information needs,new immigrants are most concerned with obtaining information pertaining to issues such as housing, food, transportation, and methods of overcoming language barriers. The intermediate stage involves seeking information about topics such as accessing legal and municipals services, employment training and opportunities, and health care. The third and final stage of information needs includes any information,such as information regarding ―host‖culture and politics that will assist new immigrants in successfully integrating into their new country (Caidi, Allard, and Dechief, 2008).
New immigrants encounter several barriers to accessing integral information.Some of the main barriers include language, the diversity of the immigrant population, and a lack of familiarity with the information resources available in the ―host‖ country.
There is evidence that certain ethnic groups have cultural features that predispose them to certain communication preferences, independent of the linguistic features of their language. There are certain generalizations that can be made about the communication preferences of members of ethnic groups,which are better delineated according to their ethnic origins (and thus their cultural affiliations), and other generalizations that can be made regarding multilingual web design, which do not consider cultural specificity, but rather focus on multilingual accessibility and design strategies and practices.
Importantly, it should be noted that available research into the use of the Internet and Web 2.0 technologies for the distribution of PLEI to immigrants indicates that to be most successful, internet information must be complemented by in person interaction, as well as the provision of non-internet informational and educational materials(CS/Resors Consulting Ltd., 2005). Thus although the use of internet and Web 2.0 technologies is emerging as a new and potentially effective trend in PLEI distribution, the importance of other media in distributing PLEI cannot be underestimated
Since immigrants are a widely diverse group with diverse and individual needs, it is important to evaluate to what extent current programs are meeting their needs and in what way their needs may have changed. Further, it is important to be aware of how culturally appropriate the format of presentation is, as well as how useful the information presented. The research has shown that although many organizations are doing important work in the area of information provision, very few are performing evaluations.