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Refugee youth, social inclusion, and ICTs: can good intentions go bad?

Raelene Wilding (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, School of Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 1 May 2009




The purpose of this paper is to anticipate the potential outcomes of efforts to promote social inclusion of youth from refugee backgrounds by considering diverse research conducted on information and communication technologies (ICTs), social inclusion, and young people of refugee backgrounds. It is argued that, while social inclusion programs might be successful at the local level, it is unclear whether they might actually do more harm than good in other, transnational contexts.


Literature reporting on projects that use ICTs to facilitate social inclusion is critically examined, with specific attention to identifying the foundational assumptions underlying such projects. These foundational assumptions are considered in relation to findings of research that identifies the transnational character of the experiences, expectations and aspirations of young people of refugee backgrounds.


The analysis highlights a conceptual disjuncture between the local aims of social inclusion and the transnational experiences of youth with refugee backgrounds. This conceptual disjuncture raises important questions about the potential effects of any program that aims to use ICTs to support young people from refugee backgrounds. While it is clear that a number of potentially positive outcomes are likely from using ICTs to promote social inclusion for refugee youth, several potentially negative outcomes are also apparent. It is argued that these potential harms tend to be overlooked because the foundational concepts of social inclusion assume a “local” community. One means of avoiding the potential for such harms could be to adequately recognise the extent to which individuals and groups participate in intersecting local and transnational communities, networks and flows of ideas, resources, and people.


This paper uses evidence of the significance of transnational social and cultural fields to propose an important intervention in social inclusion programs, by pointing to the possible harms that might result from the success of programs that facilitate social inclusion at a local level without appropriate awareness of its effects on non‐local contexts in which participants might also be active.



Wilding, R. (2009), "Refugee youth, social inclusion, and ICTs: can good intentions go bad?", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 7 No. 2/3, pp. 159-174.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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