The road ahead is paved with wireless networks: refugees, mobile technology, and adaptation in Germany

Jessica Rosenfeld

This doctorial research project aims to identify digital inequalities among recent asylum-seekers, and understand how they impact on their life chances in Germany. Between 2015-2016, Germany received 1.1 million first-time asylum-seeker applications. Many of those individuals were able to arrive safely as a direct result of mobile technology. For those who were granted protectionary status, the state provided access to language, cultural, and educational training. However, absent from this was a digital integration component. Digital access and skills are not equal within countries, let alone across borders. Moreover, while many recent asylum-seekers arrived with smartphones in hand, they were frequently novice users coming from countries where technology plays a smaller role in society. To map these digital inequalities, data were collected from 31 semi-structured interviews with recently arrived asylum-seekers between 2017-2018. Questions were asked with three aspects in mind: (1) technological usage patterns; (2) variety of uses; and (3) assessing digital problem-solving skills. Furthermore, interlocuters were also asked to discuss their personal experiences and perceptions of the role that technology has played and how it is evolving in their lives. Data analysis is being carried out using a mix-methods approach consisting of qualitative content analysis, as well as comparisons to previous European Union technology population surveys using descriptive statistics. 

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