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Some unstructured thoughts on Digital Revolution and the current Refugee Crisis.

  1. Digital technologies are overlaying traditional culture with a global information network. Smartphones and Network access spread fast and wide. Flow of information is limited by language only, not by country borders.
  2. Members of local traditional communities turn into participants in a global infrastructure. This comes in a single step, short-cutting intermediate phases (the age of land lines etc.). At best, they are turned into active participants in a global economy.
  3. Traditional, conservative, segregative values co-exist with the availability of high-tech communication. It would be an illusion to believe that traditional values cease to exist with the availability of more information. Instead, the new information will be understood and utilized in the framework of existing cultural biases.
  4. Young people in troubled regions live in two worlds at once: a local miserable life, dominated by strong segregative values, and – simultaneously – apparent global availability of options, wealth, freedom.
  5. cellWe see the advent of a new social group: Third-world digital natives.
    [Note: The term “digital native” does not mean high competence in use and development of software, but growing up in a world in which the presence of Web and digital devices is a fact of life and taken for granted; naturally making use of all the things you can do with them.]
  6. The new third-world digital natives are highly mobile; they understand there is life beyond their borders. Their decision to migrate is an individual one. By starting to move they don’t follow orders.
  7. Information about the chances and risks of migration, travel routes, tips and tricks on how to handle obstacles, how to treat (and cheat) foreign authorities, is readily available to the new third-world digital natives. Foreign law is not perceived as moral authority but as obstacle to deal with. Breaking foreign law is not a matter of feeling guilty, but an act of civil disobedience, by which the risk will be calculated.
  8. Social media are also used to recruit people. In particular by appealing to traditional values (or some perversion thereof), some digital-native emigrants, feeling culturally displaced, can be pulled via digital channels to join radical traditionalist movements.
  9. It takes more than some videos and messages to make people migrate. But if some local dire situation arises (war, repression, famine), determination and willingness will grow to travel all around the globe to find a better life.

Attempted conclusion: The number of digital natives willing to take risks and migrate from war, disaster and poverty will grow substantially and for a long time. Informationally, they are part of the digital age, culturally they are not part of the western life style. It is unlikely that fence-building will effectively stop them. And they bring their culture with them. Culturally, it may take a generation for them to adapt.