- Using Information and Communication Technologies to Support New Global Societies
Today, migrants can count on the availability of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as powerful tools to mediate their trajectory of life.1
This paper examines the use of ICTs by some of the vast population of multi-cultural, multilingual, and multiethnic migrants living in Europe, Asia, Australia, the Americas, and Africa. Drawing from recently published studies by the Pordenone Group of Scholars,2 this paper explores how internal and external migration is consistently transforming societies across the globe. Many of the millions of people who have moved from their birthplace now use mobile phones and the Internet to maintain familial, religious, political, linguistic, commercial, and cultural connections, regardless of their whereabouts. The role these migrants play in the construction of new societies using this connectivity is significant and transformative, such as their contribution to innovative business and entrepreneurial activity. Using examples from the everyday experiences of migrants, this paper provides a glimpse of the many different circumstances in which migrants use ICTs to maintain their lives.3 In so doing, it aims to provide a view of migrants worldwide from the perspective of their use of ICTs, thereby offering new knowledge about “a body of humankind on the move with a mobile phone in their pocket or access to the Internet to guide them.”4
The reasons people migrate are manifold, but it is not so much why someone has migrated that is explored here but what happens after they have moved. Once in their new home, the migrant must establish and sustain a new life and perhaps also support their family, whether they are with them or left behind in the home-land. The new social ecology of the migrant is examined here, first with regard to how they maintain communications with their home and the emotional effects this may have on them and those left behind. The paper then explores the growing recognition of the positive contributions migrants make in the business community, as well as how they have appropriated the ICTs and are using them to define their identities. The paper includes illustrations from our studies, which cover all [End Page 101] the continents, and considers future opportunities for innovation and commerce that might be enhanced or in some way impacted by the new global societies.
Keeping in Contact with Home
Stories and myths carried down from past centuries of migration provide a strong folk memory for new migrants of the present day, not least in perpetuating the nostalgia they feel for home. Traveling to make a new home elsewhere may be a joyful decision, but it might also entail great hardship and come at considerable cost to the migrants and those left behind, who may have paid in cash as well as emotionally to give a family member a new chance in life. Migration is not only about making a great journey across continents to flee oppression or for survival; it can also be about making a relatively short journey from the countryside into a town in search of economic prosperity and new opportunities. Whatever the reason behind a move, there is most likely a desire to keep in touch with those left behind, and finding effective ways to manage emotional family ties and the wrench of separation frees the migrant to make their way in their new homeland. In this section, I explore some of the ways the migrants in our studies have maintained their emotional bonds with their home and family.
Looking first at the history of communication between migrants and the friends and family left behind, one can begin to see how the new communications technologies in use today can support migrants’ emotional ties. The availability of ICTs and the pace of technological development—from the early post and telegraph to the telephone to the ubiquitous Internet and/or mobile phone coverage—have changed the mode of keeping in contact, particularly over the last decade. The expanding geographic rollout of mobile phone and wifi networks now easily provides for those who need to stay in contact when away from home. Communications companies initially provided their service primarily for mobile...