Internet: Using the Internet for Settlement Research
By Khaled Islaih
Canada is one of the leading countries in adopting and developing new information and communication technologies (ICT). Recent statistics show that 64% of Canadian homes had at least one person using the Internet regularly in 2003. 57% of all households used the Internet for electronic banking. 65% used it to receive health and medicine information. In business, 76% of all Canadian companies are connected to the web. The value of online sales increased by 40% in 2003 reaching $19.1 billion. Compare this to $13.7 Billion in 2002 and only $7.2 billion in 2000. Also, sales of Canadian products to Canadians increased by more than 55% and reached $5.7 billion.
The high level of ICT in Canada makes the Internet the perfect tool to make the newcomer's settlement an easier one. The Internet gives newcomers a way to find information, helps them make contacts, find work and develop themselves professionally. For example, think of how helpful it is for a newcomer to visit www.settlement.org. This website gives a lot of useful information on all topics of interest to newcomers and immigrants. The site offers ideas on all parts of settlement in Canada, including jobs, education, taxes, places to live, government services, banking and other topics.
In my own experience, the website was very useful in helping me to relocate easily. Using the information on the net, I found a suitable place to live, helpful advice on how to deal with the necessary paperwork, ideas and information on how to open a new bank account, apply for a driving license, Child Tax Benefits and other very necessary steps that newcomers need to do in their fist days in Canada.
The benefits of the Internet site continue into the future, after the arrival and settlement of the newcomer. It offers help by letting you ask questions and receive answers from different government offices at any time while you live in Canada. The Internet site also allows interested people and newcomers to share their stories and ideas about their settlement and experiences in Canada.
Another essential role of the Internet is to allow newcomers to make important contacts. This makes settling in Canada a lot easier. For me, the internet was a tool for joining different Canadian institutions such as the Periodical Writers Association of Canada (www.pwac.ca), The Canadian Institute for International Affairs (www.ciia.org), the Canadian Association for Business Economics (www.cabe.ca) , and the Canadian Association of Journalists (www.caj.ca).The newsletters and publications sent out by these organizations are filled with new information about Canadian life, economy, writing markets, and politics. Therefore, I am always happy to receive new literature from them. Added to this, online communications makes it easy to stay in contact with my Canadian colleagues, to learn more and to build personal contacts: especially now that I am living outside Canada. I am confident that the list of contacts started and kept through e-mail communications will be an important benefit to me in Canada.
Online services also help in financial and other daily business matters. Electronic banking services are faster and less expensive than offline services. They can also be used at any time. Electronic banking makes it possible for persons to establish themselves in Canada while working on other assignments outside the country. As a freelance writer and translator, I usually ask clients in Dubai, London and New York to transfer my fees for writing and translating services to a bank account in Toronto. This I regularly access through the Internet. I also use the credit card from a Canadian bank to pay for online purchases, magazine subscriptions and membership fees.
More importantly, the Internet has helped me develop a career that gives me additional income through writing and translating assignments. I usually receive commissions from clients in different countries including France, England, USA, United Arab Emirates and Canada. I also use the Internet to develop myself professionally. I learn about conferences and workshops that I can attend and be part of. Last year I was present at a conference in England and I will be presenting a paper to a conference at York University next December. Added to this, the Internet makes it possible for me to choose the continuing education courses that I want to follow in Canada.
These examples show how newcomers can use the Internet to share with other Canadians their background, skills, achievements and dreams. However, evidence clearly shows that not all newcomers can enjoy the benefits of the Internet. It seems that newcomers' access to the net is smaller than that of other Canadians. Official statistics show that only 25% of the low-income families (including those of newcomers) have used the Internet from home. This shows the need to help newcomer families access the net from their homes and increase their use of the Internet. Higher use means more cost and expenses in equipment and training so that the poor family members, including newcomers, can turn into skillful Internet users. In 2003, a survey found that 33% of interviewed Canadians saw themselves as unskilled Internet users. Obviously the ratio will be higher in the poor families and those of newcomers.