The Digital Leisure Divide and Forcibly Displaced

Payal Arora, Amanda Paz Alencar, Daniela Jaramillo Dent, John Warnes, Erika Perez-Iglesias

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Abstract

UNHCR has been pursuing an agenda of enhanced connectivity and digital inclusion for the forcibly displaced. For a number of years, many of the interventions have been tied to specific developmental goals —i.e. enhanced education, use of digital financial services, greater access to information, among others. There is emerging evidence that challenges the notion that those
targeted with such interventions prioritize connectivity for these purposes. Rather, the agenda highlights leisure as a key driver for adoption of digital technologies, and a critical use case for such technologies that bring indirect benefits beyond the ‘virtuous’ aims of humanitarian aid and development programmes globally.
In this workstream report, UNHCR and Erasmus University Rotterdam scholars document the evidence on digital leisure in the forced displacement context, highlighting issues unique to it. Based on this desk review, the main uses and potential benefits of digital leisure in refugee contexts have been outlined. It brings together evidence from research and industry reports at the global level with an emphasis on Brazil as a region of interest for the first phases of this
project.
The report starts by conceptualizing the digital leisure divide as an important aspect of existing digital gaps among forcibly displaced communities. It covers the main infrastructural, cultural, and political limitations that exist for refugees’ connectivity. We emphasize the vast variation in connectivity and specific contextual limitations and opportunities in different locations. Considering this, the proposed digital leisure perspective is presented with a focus on communities and their actual preferences and uses of technologies which overwhelmingly include leisure activities such as:
• one-to-one and group messaging;
• sharing of photos, videos and music;
• accessing social media;
• online gaming;
• consumption of audiovisual content;
• romancing;
• shopping.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

The Innovation Service and Erasmus University of Rotterdam would like to thank the UNHCR team in Boa Vista (Brazil) and partners for the support provided during the
research process. Both teams are especially grateful to Camila Ignacio Gerardo, Oscar Sánchez Piñeiro, Susana Camacho Vivar, and Renata Kawabe from UNHCR as well
as AVSI and Fraternidade Sem Fronteiras staff for their enthusiasm, commitment, and guidance through the field phase of the Digital Leisure Project to enrich the findings.
We would like to acknowledge the authors, Erasmus University Rotterdam - Payal Arora, Amanda Alencar, Daniela Jaramillo-Dent, and UNHCR - John Warnes,
Erika Perez-Iglesias, for their research and drafting of this report.
We also thank Julia Camargo at ESPM - São Paulo for her field leadership and research coordination between EUR and UNHCR and Paula Wittenburg at EUR for her research
assistance and support.

Made possible thanks to the generous support of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

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