Montreal, February 1, 2018 - How are the lives of immigrants transformed by using the internet and its many associated applications? This question was at the heart of the first Canada-wide study on internet use by immigrants to Canada. The study was headed by Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) researchers Christian Agbobli, director of the Social and Public Communication Department, and Magda Fusaro, UQAM's rector, who oversaw the research project in her capacity as holder of the UNESCO chair in Communication and Technologies for Development. The results reveal the central role the internet plays in the empowerment and integration of immigrants in Canada.
Funded by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority's (CIRA) Community Investment Program (CIP), the study established a portrait of the use of the internet by immigrants and led to the tabling of multiple recommendations for governments and training organizations that work with immigrants.
Canada, a welcoming country
In 2016, Canada received 296,370 new permanent residents, which represents the highest immigration entry rate since 2010, according to Statistics Canada. However, immigration and integration (social, economic, political and cultural involvement) are two distinct concepts that do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.
The study, conducted in 2016 and 2017 and entitled Using the Internet Towards Greater Engagement and Empowerment of Immigrants in Canada, established a portrait of the use of the internet by immigrants in Canada with respect to their empowerment. In other words, how and under what conditions have they achieved a certain level of empowerment since they arrived in the country? Has the internet contributed to this empowerment?
Magda Fusaro noted that "one of the objectives of the project was to identify the 'best' strategies and guidance measures to mobilize and engage immigrant citizens with Canadian society."
According to Christian Agbobli, the results led to the observation that, "although maintaining ties to their country of origin is one of the reasons for internet use, the immigrants who took part in the study see their use of the internet more as a way of integrating into Canadian society. However, adequate training is required in order to help them move toward empowerment."
"We are very pleased to have supported the Université du Québec à Montréal and its important research through our Community Investment Program," says David Fowler, CIRA's vice president of marketing and communications. "We know how valuable the internet is in people's everyday lives. Understanding how to help immigrants fully access the cultural, social and economic benefits of the internet is an excellent example of building a better online Canada, and we are proud to be a part of this."
Observations arising from the study:
- Immigrants to Canada own and use portable computers and smartphones in their homes, and most (70.9 per cent) have internet access at home.
- Among the respondents, smartphones are the most widely used devices for browsing the internet.
- Since arriving in Canada, respondents have used the internet to carry out the following new activities: learning about the local (Canadian) culture, using applications to get around by themselves, etc.
- More than 75 per cent of respondents state that they have used the internet to search for employment.
- 90 per cent of respondents mentioned that the training available to immigrants was effective in terms of integrating into their new country.
- English is the most widely used language when searching for employment.
- The training that respondents received focused on these areas: 1) language upgrading, 2) writing a CV/introduction to local culture, 3) searching for employment.
- They also use the internet to gain a better understanding of Canadian culture.
- The internet allows immigrants to move around with autonomy, develop their linguistic skills and improve their knowledge.
- Respondents use the internet to stay in contact with friends and family in their country of origin.
- The most visited sites for employment searches include Emploi Québec, Kijiji and Indeed.
Recommendations from the researchers:
- It is recommended that immigrants to Canada receive training that focuses on integration into Canadian society and the specific characteristics of the Provinces, even before they arrive in the country.
- Promote websites in Canada's two official languages through the .CA website, focusing on learning these languages before they arrive in the country.
- Increase funding for organizations that are responsible for integration, with a particular focus on internet-based training.
For training organizations
- Training should focus on employment-search strategies.
- Training should focus on understanding the local culture.
- Internet-based training should focus on the following areas.
- Promoting the development of autonomy among immigrants in terms of getting around, developing linguistic skills and improving their knowledge.
- Developing and improving the skills required by parents to keep up with technological changes.
UNESCO Chair in Communication and Technologies for Development at UQAM
The mission of the UNESCO Chair in Communication and Technologies for Development at UQAM is to decompartmentalize research and foster multidisciplinarity in the following spheres of research, expertise and action: access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), social uses of ICTs, communication and international development, national information policies, institutional/organizational communication and media development and management.
Université du Québec à Montréal
Creative, open and dynamic, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) is a leading university with an international scope that has built its reputation on the originality and uniqueness of its 305 programs, research activities that focus on social issues and ongoing innovations. Located in the heart of Montréal, UQAM is home to more than 42,000 students.
About the CIRA Community Investment Program
CIRA is building a better online Canada through the Community Investment Program by funding innovative projects led by charities, not-for-profits and academic institutions that are making the internet better for all Canadians. CIRA is best known for our role managing the .CA domain on behalf of all Canadians. While this remains our primary mandate, as a member-based not-for-profit ourselves, we have a much broader goal to strengthen Canada's internet. The Community Investment Program is one of our most valuable contributions toward this goal and funds projects in infrastructure and access, digital literacy, online services, and research. Every .CA domain name registered or renewed contributes to this program. To date, CIRA has supported 102 projects with over $4.2 million in contributions.
Christian Agbobli, Director of the Social and Public Communication Department at UQAM, is available for interviews.