Information and communication technology can bring many benefits to the migration process, from pre-migration decision-making to integration into host societies. It can alleviate challenges and create opportunities for migrants and host communities, but it also has the potential to exacerbate existing inequalities. Technology has such a significant role in migration, how can we ensure it is a positive one?
International think tank the IEP forecasts that 1.2 billion people could be displaced by 2050 due to climate change and natural disasters. With climate migration expected to surge in the coming decades, it is essential that technology assists migrants and their host countries through each stage of the process.
Improving access to information pre-migration
Information access: People looking to migrate can access information about destinations, job opportunities, and legal processes online, facilitating better-informed decisions and planning.
Facilitating the migration process: Technology has reduced the time and cost of applying for visas, streamlining the visa application process and making it more efficient and accessible for migrants. For example, migrants can apply for visas online, track the progress of their applications, and receive updates electronically.
Developing in-demand skills: Online learning platforms and educational resources enable potential migrants to find out what are the sought-after skills and acquire them to improve their qualifications, enhancing their employability prospects in host countries.
Assisting integration during migration
Navigation: Technology has revolutionised the way migrants travel, providing tools to navigate routes and seek assistance. Mobile phones, GPS devices, and online platforms have made it easier reach a destination and access essential services. Translation tools and communication platforms facilitate communication, including with people who speak different languages.
Finding jobs and accommodation: Online platforms connect migrants with employers and landlords and job portals help match the skills of migrants with the needs of employers, contributing to the country’s economic development. These platforms can help migrants find opportunities that match their skills and qualifications, and they can also help them to find affordable accommodation.
Border control and surveillance: Countries use biometric technology for border control, immigration, and security purposes in alignment with their migration policies, to affect ease or difficulty of entry. Advanced surveillance systems, including drones and monitoring technologies, are used to monitor and control borders, influencing migration routes and patterns.
Creating and maintaining connections post-migration
Communication tools: Technology, especially the internet and mobile devices, has improved communication among migrants and their families. Video calls, messaging apps, and social media platforms help individuals stay connected across borders.
Integrating into society: Technology can help migrants integrate into the society by providing access to information and resources and helping migrants learn about society. Online platforms provide information about language, culture, customs, and laws.
Financial services: Migrants often send remittances to their home countries. Digital payment platforms and blockchain technology have made cross-border financial transactions more efficient and less costly.
Looking to the future
Big data analytics provides insight and understanding of migration patterns, demographics and trends to address the needs of migrants and ensure diaspora communities are best supported to integrate into society.
Policymakers need to consider digital surveillance, privacy issues, misinformation and the potential for exclusion of those who lack access to technology—to ensure benefits are widespread and equitable.
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