11.1.2022

Immigrants are excluded from digitalisation

Maahan muuttaneet jäävät digitalisaation ulkopuolelle
Artem Kuosti
Digitalisaatio on yksi globaaleista megatrendeistä, joka vaikuttaa yhteiskunnalliseen kehitykseen kaikkialla maailmassa. Tämä kehitys eteni harppauksin jo keväällä 2020, kun siirsimme nopeasti toimintaa etäyhteyksien kautta suojautuaksemme Covid-19-virukselta. Poikkeustila on vahvistanut monia toimijoita, mutta myös heikentänyt toisten asemaa.
Alkuperäinen suomenkielinen artikkeli löytyy tästä linkistä: Suomidigi  

Immigrants are excluded from digitalisation

Digitalisation is one of the global megatrends affecting social development all over the world. This trend already took leaps and bounds in spring 2020, when we rapidly moved our operations remotely to protect ourselves from the Covid-19 virus. This exceptional situation has strengthened many actors, but also weakened others. If not all keep pace with change, digitalisation could lead to social inequality. Digitalisation must be part of the social sustainability of society. We must ensure that everyone keeps pace with change, regardless of age, economic situation, language skills or social status. If outreach is only done in Finnish and Swedish through familiar channels, immigrants and their organisations are easily excluded from support systems and training. Immigrants must be involved in the design phases of digital services, actively involved in the process of change. Even those with good digital skills may be completely unfamiliar with Finland’s service structure, which is why service counselling is also an important part of immigrants’ digitalisation.

The digital inclusion of immigrants must be measured in terms of the target groups.

Responding to online surveys can be a challenge in itself if digital skills are lacking. Vulnerable immigrant voices are excluded from the surveys, and our overall picture of the digital literacy of the population is incomplete. Data collection practices must focus on the people from whom the data is collected if we are to get the most comprehensive picture of digital inclusion.  

Multicultural organisations have a key role to play in promoting digital inclusion and integration.

They are keen to strengthen their own digital competence. They perceive digitalisation as a way to strengthen their own activities, but a large number of multicultural organisations do not have the financial and human resources to meet external demands. It is necessary to ensure that organisations have the necessary resources and capacities. The ”MoniDigi” mapping has shown that more than half of organisations do not know where to direct clients to digital support. The survey also showed that at the service level, more than half of the organisations provide hidden digital support. Hidden digital support is unplanned digital support that is not part of the actual evaluation and monitoring of the organisation’s activities. Hidden digital support creates additional workload, overburdening small organisations.

Digital support clients at different stages of integration need help to internalise basic services and service culture.

Support takes a lot of time, repetition and patience for small organisations running their own activities. Going digital places additional demands for which support is needed. The Finnish digital support landscape is diverse and has a lot to offer to all people in need of digital support. Organisations that guide immigrants lack the knowledge and cooperation to take advantage of this. The Accessibility Directive should make online service sites easier to use and clearer. The lack of culturally sensitive and linguistic accessibility is a barrier to digital support for people who need help to navigate. Digital support is needed in many different languages and easily accessible information in plain language. We also need to remember that we cannot just operate in an online environment when not everyone has data connections or the necessary technology or equipment. So we need to use other means of communication than websites and social media. The exceptional situation created by Covid has taught us that when all services go online, some people will be left out completely alone. Digitalisation cannot replace all services without discriminating against minorities.   Digital literacy is a new civic skill, not a civic duty, and cannot be a prerequisite for people to exercise their fundamental rights and benefits.   The author is the project manager of the DigiUp project of Moniheli. The DigiUp project supports the digital skills of multicultural organisations. The information is based on findings from the project’s work and the MoniDigi mapping published by Moniheli in December 2021. The MoniDigi survey collected information on the digital skills of organisations in seven languages. See the MoniDigi mapping.

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