ICT4E of Refugees: A window for Hope towards Empowerment?

“The use of information and communication technology (ICT) has the potential to support, enhance, and enable education for the most marginalized, affected by war, natural disasters, and the rapid spread of disease.”(Dahya, 2016, p.3)

Despite those strong words, many scholars commented on the impact of ICT on learning and empowerment with great uncertainty. “It is generally believed that ICTs can empower teachers and learners…However, there are currently very limited, unequivocally compelling data to support this belief” (Trucano, 2005) . Dorothea Klein (2009), who viewed ICT4E as a sub-set of ICT for development (ICT4D), tried to understand why there is until now not enough evidence to prove specific impacts of technology on the (dis)empowerment of populations, to whom development programmes are directed. She highlighted two reasons. First, on the theoretical level, there is a mainstream trend of conceptualizing the impact of ICT using economic growth discourses “which is too narrow to capture the impacts of ICT” (Klein, 2009, p.674). In other words, relying merely on economic measurements, will limit our understanding of how ICTs are embedded in sociocultural and political environments (Schulte, 2015). Secondly, the focus on top-down, donor-centered and a priori measurements of development outcomes is “unsuitable in the context of multi-purpose technologies which could empower individuals to attain development outcomes of their own choice” (Kleine, 2009, p.675).

My research aims to fill part of that knowledge gap related to the impact of ICT4E on people’s empowerment, while staying fully alert of not falling into the same pitfalls, Kleine mentioned. The research will mainly look into the comprehensive environment of the programme recipients (social, cultural, political, economic,…); i.e. the Syrian refugees’ realities during and after enrolling in the LASER programme . The research aims as well to  discover the set of goals identified for the programme (whether a priori, top-down and donor-centered or more participatory and people-focused) and the impact of those goals, design decisions and implementation processes on refugees’ empowerment. This is done with the hope, to provide future ICT-based programme implementers with illuminating lessons learnt.