Computer keyboard. Photo credit: Daniel Joseph

The expansion of the Internet is changing migration patterns

The expansion of the Internet is shaping migration movements in a profound way. A study conducted by McGill University in Canada in more than 150 countries, linked Internet penetration to migration intentions and behaviours, suggesting that digital connectivity plays a key role in decisions about migration and actively supported the migration process.

Published: February 4, 2021, 9:55 am

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    Countries with a high percentage of Internet users tend to have more citizens willing to migrate. At the individual level, the link between Internet use and intention to migrate is stronger among women and people with less education. According to the international team of researchers from McGill University, Oxford University, University of Calabria and Bocconi University, the same results are obtained when comparing economic migrants and political migrants.

    “The digital revolution triggered by the advent of the Internet has transformed our societies, economies and lifestyles. Migration is no exception,” said Luca Maria Pesando, study co-author and assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and the Center for Population Dynamics at McGill University.

    Nürnberg, Bavaria, Germany. The Internet remembers. Save Your Internet – Demonstration against upload filter – Article 13 #CensorshipMachine. Photo credit: Markus Spiske

    As part of the study published in Population and Development Review, researchers examined internet use and migration routes using data from the World Bank, the International Telecommunication Union, the Global Peace Index, the Arab Barometer and the Gallup Global Poll, an international poll of citizens from 160 countries.

    Their findings highlighted the importance of the Internet as an information channel for migrants leaving their countries in search of a better life, Techno-science reported. Unlike political migrants, who may be pushed, for example, by the sudden escalation of civil conflict, economic migrants make decisions more likely to take advantage of access to information the Internet provides and to be influenced by the desire for a brighter future in the destination country.

    “Not only does the Internet give us access to more information, but it also allows us, through social media, to easily compare ourselves with other people living in other – often richer countries”, noted Prof. Pesando.

    When researchers looked at migration data in Italy – a country that has seen a significant increase in the influx of migrants over the past two decades – they found a strong correlation between internet use in the country of origin of migrants and the presence of people from this country in the population register Italian the following year. By tracking migrants, including asylum seekers and refugees who passed through the Sant’Anna immigration center in Calabria, the researchers also made a connection between digital skills and knowledge of migration routes.

    “Our results contribute to the growing number of research papers on digital demographics, under which the data produced by the Internet or digital navigation paths are used to study the migration and other demographic phenomena,” said Prof. Pesando. “Our work suggests that the Internet not only serves as an instrument for observing migration behaviour, but actively supports the migration process.”

    As for the next steps, the research team, which includes Francesco Billari from Bocconi University and Ridhi Kashyap and Valentina Rotondi from the University of Oxford, will study the effects of digital technologies and connectivity on advancements in social development, women’s empowerment and reproductive health as well as the well-being of children from one generation to the next.

    The study: The article “The Internetization of International Migration”, by Luca Maria Pesando, Valentina Rotondi, Manuela Stranges, Ridhi Kashyap and Francesco C. Billari, was published in Population and Development Review . The study was funded by the grant of the European Research Council on Discontinuities in the Formation of Households and Families.
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/padr.12371

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