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Dossier 18/02/2014

From social integration to digital inclusion

Among migrants in precarious situations, "the question of digital facilities becomes more focused but it has not disappeared" stresses the report by The French Digital Council (CNN) released in November 2013 to the Minister Delegate for the Digital Economy, Fleur Pellerin.

Often invisible, migrants in precarious situations have not been forgotten this time in these recommendations. Stressing that digital technology is essential to migrant populations - particularly in the preservation of social and family ties, and economic inclusion - the report made this audience the first circle of action. The 'social inclusion' section was, until then, only addressed in passing by important recent texts, such as Vincent Peillon's Digital Program, making policies conducted both exclusionary and incapable of uniting many field initiatives. Criticism expressed by contributors invited to the preliminary debate organized by the CNN was thus obviously heard.

The digital divide and inclusion

While the digital democratization of technology today allows most migrants, even undocumented migrants, to own a mobile phone, digital access is not guaranteed. The largest obstacle remains the "connection cost" which represents on average between 10% and 30% of the budget of a person in a precarious situation, compared to 4% of the budget for the French. Even if they are equipped with laptops, poor migrants rarely have a plan or a package which would actually enable them to emerge from their exclusion and find work more easily. Internet facilities are almost non-existent for people in the most precarious situations, even though they would provide them with a multitude of free services and would facilitate access to administrative services, which are increasingly becoming 'e-Government ' services.

Stressing the priority of making access to the internet an effective right, the CNN makes two recommendations: to develop social tariffs targeted towards groups in difficulty, and to train excluded people on the uses of digital technology upon request. For as much as migrants may have access to the tools, there is no evidence that they possess the resources and the knowledge needed to exploit the potential for social integration - especially older migrants for whom the digital divide is as much economic as generational.

Field experience

However right they may be, the recommendations listed by the CNN do nothing but reformulate that which is already provided by associations. On the ground for three years, the projet de téléphonie solidaire (the united telephony project), run by Emmaüs Défi, proved that the drop in costs related to digital technology and user support improves employability and social support, re-establishes social ties and sometimes allows the repayment of rent or microcredit. Observing the profile of registrants, one sees that precarious migrants seem to be the main beneficiaries of the project: 77% were born abroad, 82% do not have a landline and 57% call North Africa.

The aim of téléphonie solidaire is simple: by selling discounted prepaid cards or 3G keys given for free by private partners, the association generates the revenue required to fund support for these people, so that they can become autonomous in their use of technology, and thus participate in their integration. This is supplemented by initiatives such as the “coffre-fort numérique solidaire" (digital safe for solidarity), proposed by the Reconnect association for people in precarious situations, so that they may benefit from safe storage space for their administrative documents. The Emmaüs program could be enough to carry out a genuine targeted and effective social digital inclusion policy, which improves not just access but also the conditions of access.


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