The Mind the Gap report, authored by Dr. Linda Leung from the University of Technology Sydney, explores the experiences of refugees as communications consumers in Australia, and describes a trial education program aimed at developing higher level communications literacies during the settlement process.

Interviews with over 30 refugees in different capital cities found that as new arrivals to Australia, refugees tend to have low communications technology literacy having generally been deprived of communications during their displacement in refugee camps or intermediate countries.  While refugees generally arrive with base level consumption literacies (which enable them to use at least one telecommunications device to primarily receive calls), living in Australia demands higher level literacies (such as owning and taking financial responsibility for a range of technology products).  

The project also brings to light:

  • the low levels of knowledge about communications products and communications technology literacy on the part of newly arrived refugees;
  • the lack of support for communications technology awareness and use in settlement service provision for refugees;
  • and the gap that exists between telecommunications literacy (for which there is no formalised support during settlement) and computer literacy skills (which, along with English language tuition, are provided as part of the refugee settlement process).

The findings informed the development of a trial education program that includes four modules: Landlines vs. Mobiles, Understanding Mobile Phones, Mobile Phone Plans, and Phone Cards. The report recommends that community education initiatives focus on mobile technology and the differences between pre and post paid services, traps to avoid in the market, and advice on existing products that give consumers more control (prepaid options, for example).  The report concludes by outlining the implications of the research for immigration policy as well as regulation in the telecommunications industry.

The project was supported by the ACCAN Grants Scheme. Read more about the Scheme here.

Download: Mind the Gap: Refugees and communications technology literacy [Adobe PDF - 785 KB]

Download: Mind the Gap: Refugees and communications technology literacy [Word Document - 3.30 MB]