Addressing Global Migration Challenges with the Use of Technology

Sep 27, 2021

The Contemporary world counts nearly 281 million people who live outside of their countries of origin. This figure owes to an array of drivers from poor economic conditions and dried-up job opportunities all the way to famine, natural disasters, armed conflicts, and protracted political instability. Currently, the number of forcibly displaced people across national borders stands at 34 million, almost double the figure of 2020. It is apparent, that international migration flows have grown robustly within the last few decades. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic that affected all sorts of human mobility, the number of international migrants continued to rise, yet at a relatively slower pace.

The pace and scale of global migration can be burdensome for the migrants themselves and throw up a challenge of vast proportions. Hence, it is well-founded that the governments, policymakers, public and private sectors as well as multilateral organizations and the humanitarian system feel an unprecedented strain on themselves to find a solution. Although a quick fix seems unlikely to appear, many place an emphasis the role of technology in mitigating some of the challenges.

Technology can be applied across numerous dimensions of migration, especially in mobility and refugee contexts. Through its applications, migrants can maintain communication with families, identify education and employment opportunities, and obtain a greater deal of information. On the other side, governments and humanitarian agencies can facilitate a needs-based distribution of resources and keep the track of information regarding migration and refugee flows.

Applications of Technology for Migrants

The major uses of technology can be grouped in the below categories:

Better-informed decisions – Through the use of technology, migrants have become enabled to access greater volumes of information resulting in better-informed decisions regarding their journey destinations and transportation options.

Language and Communication – technology allows migrants to stay in contact with their friends and families they’ve left behind. Moreover, they utilize different types of apps and software to learn a new language or benefit from translation services.

Education – The volume of information available on the internet is huge. Accessing the pool of such data allows migrants to hone their skills, obtain certifications, advance their knowledge in specific areas, and make their abilities more marketable. Technology can become extremely handy in refugee contexts where formal education is frequently not even an option.

Employment – Online Job boards and websites have made the job-seeking process relatively easier. Moreover, digital freelance platforms have created greater possibilities of employment in developing countries even without the need for relocation. Technology has facilitated access to much-needed labor and opened up the way for those considering migration as a result of dried-up job opportunities.

Money and Wealth Management – A wide number of migrants, and especially the refugees have gained access to electronic money management systems. Such access turned into a great relief for those who were restricted from opening bank accounts and obtaining credit/debit cards due to their nationality and/or refugee status.

Healthcare – Migrants, especially those that live in difficult economic conditions and with limited access to health facilities, can utilize health apps and websites to acquire necessary information and consultation regarding their health conditions. In addition, more and more digital solutions appear for carrying medical records and documentation in a portable electronic format.

Technology Solutions for Governments, International, and Humanitarian Organizations

Technology has become invaluable for governments and international organizations in many ways especially for maintaining the database of migrants and tracking their flows. Some of the core applications include:

Biometrics – facial recognition, fingerprinting, and iris scanning have become the breakthrough in identity verification, revolutionizing the process of migrant identification and tracking. Controlling people inside and outside of the country’s borders turned into a simple task. For aid agencies, biometrics facilitated the delivery of aid directly to the refugees, undercutting fraud and corruption. Moreover, many of the refugees were able to receive aid cards that had their biometrics information encoded for easier identification and tracking.

Border Control Systems – Some countries have applied technology to develop smart border systems with the aim to modernize and efficiently manage their borders. These solutions screen a person’s facial biometrics and compare them with the ones encoded on the travel document.

Some countries have had success in utilizing drones for monitoring unmanned border areas and detecting illegal migrant movements. Others use drones for searching the seas and locating refugees in distress.

Virtual Passport – In 2015 Australia initiated a futuristic tech-solution for traveler identification and tracking. Virtual passport has the potential to become the basis of document-free travel between countries. It is supposed to store the same information as current biometric passports, but now on the cloud. Such a solution can significantly simplify Visa application process and support the identification of given traveler in case his/her passport gets lost.

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