Through the statements, Uudenmaan Digitukiverkosto (UuDi) (the Uusimaa digital support network) seeks to influence the digital support issues that are considered to be of common importance. By joining the forces of the network behind a common message, we want to reach a wider audience and make our voices heard. The statement has been planned and implemented by a working group of network members. It has been confirmed and signed at a network webinar event on 11.5.2021.
Involving digital skills in promoting integration
According to Uudenmaan Digitukiverkoston (UuDi) (Uusimaa digital support network) the digital skills of those who have moved to Finland must be strengthened as part of their integration. The signatories of the declaration recall that digital skills are civic skills needed for social participation, alongside language skills or cultural knowledge.
Digital literacy must be assessed and strengthened from the very beginning of the integration process. Digital skills and the support needed for them should be provided as part of the teaching of skills for integration.
Activity in society, inclusion and equal empowerment are better made possible when people have the ability to use e-services independently. Digital skills are needed today in various areas of life, from matters concerning the authorities to education and leisure. In Finland, everything from job applications to ordering food and applying for support to monitoring children’s schooling functions electronically. Digital services are a primary and cost-effective way to manage everyday affairs from the perspective of both the customer and the service provider.
The level of education and digital skills of those who have moved to Finland vary significantly. For some who move to Finland, the use of digital services is commonplace, while others have never previously used a computer. Therefore, digital support for immigrants should also be diverse: close support for beginners and clear multilingual guidance for those further ahead in the use of e-services.
– It is important for digital integration that support is available and that digital skills play a clear role alongside other teaching. One challenge is that services are fragmented and immigrants have to move from one agency to another to take care of their own affairs. Using digital services would save time and money, but it requires Finnish language skills and digital skills. With digital integration, you can learn to take care of matters independently through online services and everyday life becomes easier, says Abdirahim Hussein, executive director of Moniheli ry.
Smooth services through co-development
Where digital skills need to be taught as part of integration, different immigrant groups should be involved in the planning of e-services. This will ensure that digital services are accessible to all and that the language used in them is clear and comprehensible. A lack of language skills must not be an obstacle to the use of services and social participation. The use of e-services should also be instructed in several languages.
Not everyone has access to a computer or Internet connection, nor to information about public digitization points. Care must be taken to ensure that information about devices in public use also reaches people who do not yet speak Finnish. Especially in the exceptional situation caused by the coronavirus, the accessibility of public services is further emphasized.
– Digital skills need to be strongly integrated into the wider integration process. Digital support experts can be actively involved in the planning of integration measures. Digital skills are a prerequisite for active social participation, says Tanna Rantanen, project manager of the Uusimaa digital support network.