Survey finds substantial digital exclusion among Roma youths

The Deaconess Foundation and its partner organisations have uncovered high levels of digital exclusion among Roma youths in Finland, Serbia, Macedonia and Italy. The Digital Inclusion for Roma Adults: Gaining Knowledge and Skills in eServices (DIRA) project aims to provide IT education to digitally excluded Roma to support them in the use of electronic services and hence becoming better included in their societies.

Many blue figures form a circle and one red figure stands outside the circle.

The survey evaluated digital competences, online behaviour, and the employment training needs of the Roma communities. Carried out with 200 Roma youth respondents, the survey showed that Roma experience high digital deprivation and exclusion.

Key findings of the report:

  • 42 % of respondents said they had only completed primary school and 19 % have no education at all. This shows that two thirds (61 % of respondents of the survey) are below the threshold of basic literacy.
  • The DIRA survey results confirm the harsh reality which spares no country: less than a third of adult Roma work. 72 % of the respondents declared they are unemployed.
  • Most respondents (about 93 %) cannot afford expensive digital tools and therefore only resort to the Smartphone. The smartphone is followed by the laptop (16 %), the desktop computer (14 %) and the tablet (5 %). About 2 % do not use any electronic devices.
  • From the two questions enquiring into the objectives of the use of the digital devices, it emerges that the predominant use of the smartphone is for communication purposes. Half of the respondents use the internet for viewing content and just below 40 % for information on the outside world matters: 37 % use the smartphone for following news. Only 16 % of the respondents use the internet for job search.
  • When it comes to the digital abilities, many respondents know how to use messenger applications. Most, on the contrary, do not know how to write and communicate via email. The language of emails is formal compared to the language used for applications such as Whatsapp and Messenger. The Roma community is characterized by a low level of schooling and a high level of early school leaving, both characteristics which lead to the lack of a sufficient vocabulary to be able to communicate in a formal manner.
  • On average, only about 20% of respondents know how to use Microsoft Office.
  • Regarding ability to filter information, 53 % of Roma people report that they can identify hate speech online, generally if it is spoken, not written. About 47 % of them also consider that they know how to respond to it. Professionals assisting them consider that most Roma would recognize hate speech when expressed in their native language and in spoken form.
  • Over half of the interviewees are unable to carry out online activities and services needed in daily life.

DIRA project aims to improve the digital skills of the Roma

DIRA project partner organisations will work together for solutions to help to overcome barriers to the digital inclusion experienced by the youths in the Roma communities.

According to the DIRA project coordinator Prakash Dhakal, based on the findings of the survey, training and online platforms are being planned and formulated to instigate change in partner countries among youths in the Roma communities. “To reduce the digital and the socio-economic gap, the project will develop online platforms and training programs to support Roma youths’ capacity”, says Dhakal.

The main objective of the project is the improvement of the socio-economic state of Roma adults through IT education and development of digital skills. The baseline study is a tool of fundamental importance to reach to the project’s objective.

Funded by the Erasmus+ program, the Digital Inclusion for Roma Adults: Gaining Knowledge and Skills in eServices (DIRA) project involves five international partners Romni-APS (Italy), Udruženje gradjana Djurdjevdan (Serbia), Faculty of Information and Communication Technologies (North Macedonia), Sumnal (North Macedonia) and Deaconess Foundation (Finland). The program offers partner countries opportunities to upgrade knowledge in the improvement of the socio-economic state of Roma adults via non-formal education.