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18 December 2018

Divides – Impact of the digital divide on the foreign population


This recent study by Accem, a non-profit organisation providing counseling and reception to immigrants and refugees in Spain, looks at the implications of the digital divide on the immigrant population. It pays special attention to the impact of the digital divide on migrant women.

The study finds that the digital divide has important consequences for the foreign-born population. First, migrants may be able to take advantage of digital tools to reduce, to some extent, social inequalities. However, the second main finding is that discrimination can be exacerbated if there is incomplete access to and/or command of digital media. In other words, although new technologies have the potential to create a more inclusive society and reduce inequities, they also have the power to amplify existing inequality or even create new forms of discrimination.

Thirdly, the study stresses the risk related to fake news with xenophobic and racist content. Dis/misinformation has especially damaging effects on society, which can be used to justify prejudices against groups and increase discrimination. Online expressions of hate towards immigrants result in direct emotional and psychological damage and can trigger offline acts of violence.

In response to these results, researchers provide a series of recommendations and concrete measures to overcome the digital divide and support digital inclusion:


  • Access to new technologies should be a basic service for all members of society. Access costs should be reduced and/or aid should be increased for those who need it.
  • The availability of free access points, providing both an internet connection and computers, is imperative so that those who do not have the equipment at home can still access the digital world.
  • Public access points should be publicised. Information should assure users that they will be welcomed and discourage discrimination and xenophobia.


  • Given the speed at which new technologies change, awareness campaigns should take a long-term approach. One-time and/or specific campaigns cannot produce the required long-term change in attitudes.
  • The report underscores the importance of raising awareness among the general population about the harmful effects of the digital divide. It calls for a unified commitment from all political and social entities to work together in closing it.
  • Drawing positive attention to migrants, minorities, and women who have significantly contributed to the development of new technologies can motivate those who identify with these groups to join the digital world.


  • Digital competency workshops can reduce inequities. Workshops should cover a variety of uses and competencies for daily life.
  • The participation of women and migrants in designing technology can increase inclusion.
  • Tools that protect children and support their psychological well-being should be developed.

Discrimination and xenophobia online

  • Counter-narratives should be used to counteract misogynistic and xenophobic messages.
  • Schools can play an important role by reinforcing a critical view of online content and encouraging people to discern between reliable sources of information and to confront misinformation.
Brechas – Impacto de las Brechas Digitales en la Población Extranjera
(6.8 MB - PDF)


Geographic area
Contributor type
Non-Governmental Organisations/Civil Society
Original source
Posted by
Migration CIDOB
Country Coordinator

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