UNHCR grant on Digital leisure & Displaced populations in Brazil

Am delighted to announce the launch of the ‘Digital Leisure and Displaced populations in Brazil’ project with John Warnes and Erika Perez Iglesias from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency Innovation Services.

“Bringing to light the divide in access to digital leisure challenges the sacred tenet on which the global digital project has been built upon over decades — the belief that a good digital life for the poor would be based in work and inherently utilitarian.”

Arora, 2019 — The Next Billion Users: Digital Life beyond the West

Alongside my colleague Amanda Paz , we have brought together a brilliant team including Daniela Jaramillo-Dent, Julia Camargo and Paula Wittenburg to execute this project and generate impact on policy and practice. It is particularly uplifting to see my Next Billion User book impact real world practice in shifting approaches in connectivity and the understanding of the full media life of refugees. While the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has pursued an agenda of enhanced connectivity and digital inclusion for the forcibly displaced for a number of years, many of the interventions have been tied to specific developmental goals, such as education, the use of digital financial services, and greater access to information. For a decade, I have been challenging the notion that those targeted with such interventions prioritise connectivity for these purposes. Rather, the agenda highlights leisure as a key driver for adoption of digital technologies, and a key use case for such technologies that bring indirect benefits beyond the ‘virtuous’ aims of humanitarian aid and development programmes globally. This has been the key arguments I have been making throughout my research career and am happy to see that finally I get to see my ideas translated to practice.

In the coming months ahead, UNHCR and our Erasmus University team along with those in Brazil will join forces on this new project and undertake primary research with displaced communities in Brazil to hear directly from them about how leisure and entertainment impact their use of digital technology. Read the rest of our proposition here.