Digital tech used by migrants: how and why

19th December 2022

UN agencies, donors, and civil society organisations have devoted a substantial amount of time, money, and effort to identify creative ways for migrants and, in particular, refugees to benefit from digital technologies. Frequently, this has been accomplished through the creation of apps that provide migrants with information, advice, and assistance during their migration journey and in their destination nations. This goes from finding the best app to send money and payment solutions for mobile reload and paying bills. Too frequently, though, these endeavours have been short-lived or have failed to gain traction.

Considering the power dynamics inherent in the migration process, it seems probable that migrants will be subject to greater digital control and surveillance in the foreseeable future. In certain cases, migrants may be better off without utilising any digital technology at all. However, there are intriguing prospects to establish unique means through which migrants can derive additional benefits from digital technology. The sadness associated with separation from family and friends is one of the obstacles faced by many migrants. Breakthroughs in haptics may soon enable us to feel a person's touch or embrace, while video conversations can help mitigate this issue.

As with all digital technology, it is essential to realise that it can be utilised for either good or evil. It is the responsibility of those wishing to assist migrants to ensure that migrants can make informed judgments regarding their use of digital technology. Rather than designing wholly new solutions that may never be broadly adopted, the most effective interventions may consist of enhancing how migrants already use apps and other digital tools.

Migration In The Fourth Industrial Revolution

As a result of the convergence of physical, digital, and biological technologies, how our economies and societies connect, produce, and communicate is undergoing a profound transformation. And since our economies are more interconnected than before, this industrial revolution has spread to virtually every corner of the globe. International migration is at an all-time high due to the proliferation of new host nations, routes, and newly skilled workers, as well as the growth of a young population ready to leave its mark on the world.

Technology and worldwide migration are two megatrends that have the potential to drastically alter globalisation as we know it. The Gulf states are an example of the particularly pronounced connection between the two tendencies. On one hand, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have prioritised this new economic age. On the other hand, GCC countries are among the most dependent on migrant labour in the world.

New technologies have enabled GCC nations to intensify their efforts to diversify their economies and reduce their reliance on oil. In reality, all six GCC member states have created long-term strategies aimed at advancing the development of their capital- and technology-intensive businesses, changing and expanding key sectors such as banking, telecommunications and tourism. This commitment has been further bolstered by COVID-19.

Simultaneously, a considerable number of migrants from South and Southeast Asia rely heavily on the present versions of GCC economies for employment, money, and stability. They annually remit millions of dollars to their countries of origin, ranging from 3% of GDP in India to 24% of GDP in Nepal. A large decline in demand or a change in the nature of migration can undermine the favourable relationships between migration and development in these nations. The silver lining is that to usher in the anticipated technological shift, GCC economies will require the labour of different types, most likely from outside the GCC. Asian nations must grab this opportunity by capitalising on their knowledge and networks in the region, or they risk falling behind other growing regions in the global competition for talent.

Digitalisation And The Migration Process

The digitisation of documents, images, personal data, social networks, and virtually everything else has paved the way for machines capable of learning to interpret this information and execute activities that were formerly the domain of humans. This revolution is pushing the development of everything from retail practices and corporate organisation to city planning and healthcare.

Additionally, digitalisation has enabled considerable employment changes. On a worldwide scale, skilled employment is now more accessible, as well as more transient and compartmentalised. Participation in the digital economy is possible at any time and from any location. In contrast to the traditional conception of migration as the actual movement of people from one location to another, there may now be a form of virtual labour migration. Through internet capital, labour, and information flows, work is crossing national boundaries.

The impact of this online labour may not be thoroughly understood, in part because traditional labour market data is inadequate for assessing work that is conducted via online platforms. It is typically referred to as 'trade, "subcontracting,' or 'outsourcing,' not 'labour migration,' which refers to physical migration. A complete revolution is occurring, nearly unnoticed by policymakers and statisticians.

Divergent opinions exist regarding the extent to which the fourth industrial revolution will affect our lives. However, this does not involve predicting the future. It involves examining the assumptions of today to be prepared for tomorrow. Given the future's intrinsic complexity and unpredictability, it makes little sense to choose a single plan and wait to see if it succeeds. The government must become more at ease with pursuing a portfolio of solutions that permits ongoing experimentation, learning, and adaptation. Admitting uncertainty and undertaking a variety of trials does not indicate a lack of strategic direction. It entails constructing a self-learning system based on real-time input. The duration of disruptions is more likely to be measured in decades than in months, but we have options to decide from, numerous potential remedies, and a great deal of rapid education to complete.

What Apps Do Migrants Use And Why?

1. Homeis

Homeis, which was developed by an Israeli immigrant, offers itself as a social media application for the new migrant. It aims to consolidate features seen on other social networking sites, such as groups and pages, into a single location geared toward foreign-born residents. Homeis seeks to provide all the conveniences of social media, such as events, recipes, and human connections, with a greater emphasis on cultural inclusivity. It is designed to unite individuals with the same geographical or cultural background.



Homeis was founded by immigrants who empathise with the difficulty of suddenly having two homes — the current place and the culture and community from which one originates.


It is expanding throughout Canada. Homeis now connects South Asians in the United States and Canada.



Content silos and design filters account for the majority of the app's bad reviews. For example, the employment area contains content from both jobseekers and employers seeking to fill positions, with no ability to organise it. An identical complaint was raised about housing; the information includes both individuals seeking housing and opportunities for housing.


Currently, the application only serves content in English, French, and Spanish.

2. Settle In

Despite its focus on refugees, Settle In provides important tools for anybody seeking to establish a residence in the United States from another nation. The application includes information on housing options, job hunting, and language study. The information is given in a variety of formats, including quizzes and games. Settle In, designed by Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE), is a refugee support organisation that aims to provide cultural orientation tools — the skills and resources needed to adapt to life in the United States.



Easy-to-use interface.


Up to six people can have accounts on the same app.


Currently available in English, Arabic, Kinyarwanda, Swahili, and Dari.



This content is primarily intended for refugees, so it may not always apply to other kinds of migrants.

What Are Some Impacts Of Digital Tech On Migrants' Lives?

Over the past few decades, migrants, and their home and host societies, have become increasingly interconnected. They can maintain relationships with their home countries while integrating into their new country through the usage of new technology. Still, migrants favour social media over specialised digital tools. For instance, people would prefer to use Google Translate to study a language than a language learning application. Recognising that they require certain resources to enhance their learning and integration.

Digital Tech In Recruiting Migrant Workers

While the movement of labour can have a number of positive effects, the recruiting, placement, and employment of migrant workers in various regions of the world has become renowned for human rights violations and the difficulty of preserving fundamental labour norms. Given the disparity between the availability and demand for predominantly low-paid labour in higher-income nations, the migrant worker recruitment sector has been plagued by corruption, exploitative practices, debt bondage, and scenarios akin to human trafficking.

The application of ICT and digital tech can significantly enhance fundamental migration operations and bring about revolutionary improvements in areas such as document processing, recruitment, and remittances, to mention a few. In the context of migration management, governments will increasingly rely on digitisation and technology to improve service delivery, manage data, regulate border crossings, and connect numerous stand-alone platforms. Digitalisation at each stage of the life cycle of labour migration, from recruitment to employment to reintegration, has the potential to facilitate simpler, more effective, less expensive, and more transparent labour migration.

In What Other Ways Do Migrants Want To Use Digital Tech?

Migrants continued to send money home, frequently depleting their savings as many lost their jobs. Although there was a decline in remittances, which caused great suffering, the decline was not as severe as initially feared. Migrants used internet banking systems, highlighting the significance of digital technology to the economy.

The rapid adoption of digital tools has been a defining characteristic of the pandemic. Numerous emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency, virtual reality, the Internet of Things, and others, were already altering the workplace. With social separation and travel restrictions, this digital transition accelerated dramatically.

Migrants and displaced persons, like everyone else who aspires to a better life, can improve their livelihoods via the use of modern technology. They can acquire skills, gain access to vital information and services, and develop networks via the Internet. They can obtain better employment, launch businesses and explore new markets.

Upcoming Developments In Digital Tech For Migrants

The accelerated pace of technology development we are seeing now will bring much needed help to vulnerable people, such as refugees and migrants, who lack access to formal education and employment, to carry their knowledge and experience with them in a safe, authenticated digital CV. A platform that tracks, stores, and verifies refugees' non-formal learning and abilities, generating a "digital backpack" comprising classes, workshops, and internships that, when combined, can assist a refugee in advancing his or her education and career.

EVOLET is a digital wallet app for migrant workers.

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