Digital Inclusion: creating a social link between residents and refugees

Digital Inclusion1

Digital Inclusion is a not-for-profit association founded in 2016 by IT engineer Patrick de la Hamette and sociologist Isabelle Mousset. Promoting access to IT and social inclusion and fulfilling a role of environmental responsibility – these are the three objectives of this project based in Luxembourg City. It puts residents in touch with refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. We met the two founders.

• What is the Digital Inclusion initiative?

Patrick and Isabelle: Digital Inclusion is a project where the common denominator is to secure
access to IT for anyone without access. We collect PCs from companies and private individuals, and our volunteers – refugees and residents – repair them in order to redistribute them to refugee families, low-income residents and refugee centres. Digital Inclusion goes way beyond the technical aspect of repairing machines – it is a serious integration project and a way for people to meet. In addition to the repair workshops, we also offer electronics and telecommunications workshops and computer courses for learning French. We will soon be starting Computer Aided Design training.

• How did the idea to create this association come about ?

Isabelle: Patrick and I met a number of brilliant and highly motivated refugees who didn’t have the right to work in Luxembourg. We quickly came into contact and the same refugees often asked us if we could lend them our laptop to apply for university, sign up for  language lessons and do their administrative work. They badly needed IT resources and Internet access. We were also aware that there is a huge number of companies in Luxembourg and that they often update their IT equipment. So we had the idea of creating a not-for-profit association to address both of these issues together.

Patrick: In the beginning, I went to fetch the PCs from companies and private individuals myself and hosted repair workshops for refugees in my loft . But success came very quickly and we were getting more and more requests for free services. Since April, we’ve had our own premises in Bonnevoie – in the Hariko building, part of a Luxembourg Red Cross project.

• How do you finance your activities?

Patrick: In the beginning – that’s to say before April – we didn’t have a budget. Since then, we’ve had a donation from the United States Embassy in Luxembourg but, most importantly, we have the support of the Œuvre Nationale de Secours Grande-Duchesse Charlotte, enabling us to employ someone – Ayham from Syria – part-time to assist us with IT support.

Isabelle: We are now looking for a project manager as well.  Thanks to the money, we can also afford computer accessories.

• How many members and volunteers does the association have?

Patrick: We have 30 or so volunteers on our books, most of them aged between 20 and 35 and with IT experience. We generally meet for a repair workshop one afternoon a week. The advantage of this kind of set-up is that participants can help each other out.

Isabelle: We hold an event every two weeks when we hand out a large number of PCs. We have a very long waiting list at the moment, even though most of the companies responded yes to our requests. We have collected around 300 PCs since February and given 200 away already. We accept any PC less than ten years old and are aware of data protection and information security, of course: we take the PCs without their hard drive and put a new one in.

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• Do you intend to take your projects even further?

Patrick: Six months in, and we can already measure the impact of our activities on refugees. We hope to cover the demand from refugees, which means providing every family with a PC. But we also want to expand and focus on other disadvantaged people in Luxembourg.

Isabelle: We are also trying to find internships for refugees in companies. To achieve this, we meet with employers looking for IT interns. Moreover, we will be meeting the ADEM to talk about a possible partnership.

Further information: www.digital-inclusion.lu

  • Updated 09-09-2016