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Case Study: Collaborative State and Community Initiatives for Digital Skills Training in Refugee Communities

During the pandemic, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) sought to strengthen partnerships between refugee resettlement networks and organizations promoting digital equity. In the fall of 2020, MPI partnered with the Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees (MORA) to increase digital access and adoption among refugee communities. MPI delivered technical assistance over a series of four sessions to MORA and its newly established Maryland Digital Work Group, which included participation from four local resettlement agencies. Together, they developed a multi-pronged approach to increase refugees’ access to devices, the internet, and digital skills training in languages used by the local refugee population in Maryland. MPI linked MORA with PCs for People, a national nonprofit organization that offers refurbished computers at low-cost, and the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition. This connection led to local resettlement agencies distributing 70 computers and hotspots to refugee households. Local resettlement agencies continue to partner with PCs for People even after the end of the technical assistance period, showing promise for longer-term, sustainable engagement. MPI also connected MORA with Byte Back, a nonprofit organization that specializes in training under-resourced communities in digital skills, to explore the possibility of adapting an existing curriculum to train multilingual refugees as digital navigators, who can train their community members and serve as ambassadors to the digital world.

MPI has recently produced a report on Advancing Digital Equity Among Immigrant-Origin Youth, which highlights insights from refugee resettlement staff, community leaders, educators, and library and IT professionals working to support immigrant-origin youth.