The global digital transformation is full of opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic stimulated digital innovation on a global scale, connecting millions of migrants with their families and communities around the world. It also gave the opportunity to develop and deliver relevant and innovative services to both migrants and communities. At the same time, the pandemic highlighted the increased risk of exclusion of already marginalised groups.
While digital innovation has enabled access to services for those who were previously hard to reach, the benefits of digital innovation are not equally distributed. Initiatives around the world have turned to innovative digital solutions to address the social isolation, loneliness and inequitable access to services that pandemic-related restrictions and measures can bring.
Migrants who lack access to online connectivity, digital devices and skills have been further isolated. At the same time, the rise of online media platforms has created an echo chamber for targeted online campaigns of disinformation, hostility and hate speech against marginalised groups.
The Soroptimists of Germany decided to take action and conceived Bit4Girls! The aim of this project is to digitally empower secondary school girls, in the 8th grade, who have migrant or refugee status, by giving them the tools they need to operate computer programmes.
The Soroptimists developed this programme because they saw that underprivileged girls have fewer opportunities to receive and practice digital knowledge, which is important for professional success.
When setting up the project, the Soroptimists encountered some difficulties finding a female IT teacher but managed to find a professional through Soroptimist’s rich network. As expected, the girls were able to use their iPhone or Android phone with the most popular apps, but they didn’t even know how to start a PC, much less how to open an e-mail account or send an attachment. A return to basics and fundamentals was greatly needed.
This project was offered to children studying at Marienhauptschule in addition to their regular IT curriculum, with participating girls being supported by the school’s social worker. The ten girls who enrolled were highly motivated and grateful for being given this special opportunity. They learned quickly and, after the first nine-week course, were able to apply their newfound knowledge.
The Soroptimists are in regular contact with the school to reiterate this action and the project has received positive coverage in the local press.
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