Digital divide amid COVID-19 leaves Canada’s newest arrivals feeling isolated, immigrant group says

October 29, 2020

By CBC News |

As she turns on and logs in to her donated computer, 24-year-old Shewit Berhane is beaming from cheek to cheek, giddy with excitement. After six months in B.C., she’s finally able to really feel like she can connect to her new home.

In a world heavily dependent on technology, especially in the midst of a pandemic, immigrant settlement centres, like Vancouver’s MOSAIC, say a lack of digital devices for Canada’s newest arrivals, like Berhane, is leaving them feeling abandoned and isolated.

Berhane arrived in Vancouver by way of Eritrea and Ethiopia April 21, right as the pandemic lockdowns and dependency on the virtual world ramped up — a need she said she couldn’t meet, as the lack of affordable devices turned in to a vicious cycle of wanting to integrate but not having the right tools.

“You need some ideas. You need to collect some ideas of the society, of the way of the living of the new society.
There is a lot of life education online on Google. You know, all my wants were blocked. It was very hard to me,” Berhane said.

She said coming to a new country in the middle of a pandemic with no job or money to buy a computer and no knowledge of how the society works is a recipe for disaster. But, for her, it was still the better option, as she searched for a better life for her family and her 17-month-old daughter in Canada.

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