Meet Patrick de la Hamette

Patrick © Digital Inclusion, 2019

Patrick © Digital Inclusion, 2019

He’s the co-founder of Digital Inclusion, an organisation that aims to make IT technology accessible to everyone, promotes social inclusion and takes action for the environment.

After meeting many refugees, Patrick and his business partner Isabelle Mousset were impressed with their motivation to integrate into the society of a new country. To help, Patrick and Isabelle started gathering and refurbishing second-hand computers to donate them to refugees as tools to help them find jobs.

“Refugees arriving in Luxembourg already face an array of challenges. However, in our society, not having access to digital tools can become a factor of social exclusion.”

The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and that’s how Digital Inclusion was born!

Let’s go digital!

Digital Inclusion has come a long way since its humble beginnings, and is now helping anyone in need. In total, over 2,700 computers have been donated to refugees and local residents who could not afford IT equipment. But now, thanks to EU funding, the organisation offers far more.

Digital Inclusion employs 17 people, half of whom used to be refugees, and has over 40 volunteers. The team hosts computer classes and digital training for migrants and job seekers. These are offered in 9 languages, including Arabic and Tigrinya.

Thanks to additional EU funding received in 2020, Patrick and his team have now set up the Language Lab, to help people learn French, German and English. They also offer coaching on the local job market. So far, over 500 participants have joined the digital classes and over 200 have enrolled in the Language Lab. Everything is free of charge!

“Improving digital access and skills can have a life-changing effect, especially for the most vulnerable.”

The Digital Inclusion team ready to deliver computers

The Digital Inclusion team ready to deliver computers © Digital Inclusion, 2020

Crisis support dispatched

The pandemic revealed another digital gap in Luxembourg. Mandatory e-learning highlighted the disparity between children with access to IT equipment and those without.

“Equal access to education and digital skills for those less advantaged is a problem that was always there, but the coronavirus crisis has made it more evident.”

Digital Inclusion saw an opportunity to help out. They teamed up with teachers to supply computers to over 200 students in need. The public stepped in, too, donating laptops and smartphones at a newly established dropzone in the city.

The pandemic also challenged Patrick and his team at Digital Inclusion. They had to adapt their services, pushing the organisation further into the digital realm. Classes and job coaching sessions that used to be held in person, like the Language Lab, are now virtual – and still going strong.

Despite the difficulties of lockdown and the sanitary constraints, Digital Inclusion rose to the challenge, distributing over 700 computers in 2020.

The Digital Inclusion team working from home

The Digital Inclusion team working from home © Digital Inclusion, 2020

Recycle, reuse, repair

Digital Inclusion is helping the environment, too. By encouraging people to donate IT equipment they no longer use, the project is challenging them to think differently about their goods: can they be repurposed rather than being thrown away. By extending a product’s lifespan, we reduce its environmental footprint and cut down on electronic waste.

A green and digital future

The coronavirus crisis has shaken our societies to the core. There’s a clear understanding that we need to build back a more resilient European Union for the post-pandemic age, one that will be ready for a transition to a greener and more digital future.

The crisis has also highlighted and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities in Europe. The EU will remain committed to tackling inequality and to supporting those most in need. Ultimately, we aim to build a fairer Union for everyone.