Digital Inclusion Bridges The Digital Divide

Patrick de la Hamette, Founder, Digital Inclusion (©Silicon Luxembourg).

In February 2016, Patrick de la Hamette embarked on a mission. He initiated Digital Inclusion in his attic, oblivious to the profound impact it would have on thousands of community’s most vulnerable.

When refugees and families with low financial means enter Luxembourg, they don’t have access to digital technology; ​​they have either left their devices behind or have damaged tools. This restricts them from accessing benefits, job opportunities or public and private services designed for them. 

With Digital Inclusion, Patrick is solving this problem from the ground up. The idea struck Patrick, an IT engineer, during a visit to two refugees residing in a foyer, both of whom were also engineers. They had skills but lacked access to infrastructure, which motivated Patrick to build an association that extended its services to vulnerable individuals in general. 

Digital Inclusion team at their office (© Shewali Tiwari).

At Digital Inclusion, donated devices from individuals, corporations, and institutions undergo refurbishment before being redistributed. The objective? To promote social inclusion through technology and prevent perfectly usable gadgets from going to waste. Located in the heart of the city’s bustling area, Digital Inclusion’s office comprises a spacious classroom, a storage area for screens and computers, and Digital Inclusion’s staff.

Transparency and equality

With a deluge of applications for laptops and systems, Digital Inclusion prioritises transparency and fairness. Every request is meticulously logged and addressed chronologically, with 100% of procurement reported to the ministry.

“I can assure you that every gadget we procure is distributed impartially and agnostically. Whether you arrive in Luxembourg today or tomorrow, you’ll be treated equally,” details Patrick de la Hamette, founder of Digital Inclusion.

In recent times as the startup’s visibility grew, its waiting list for devices became directly proportional to its popularity. Therefore to address those needs with absolute fairness in time, Patrick and team devised a transparent system such as this one. 

Right now, the project’s most fervent advocates are users who are spreading the word in communities and areas where they live – the benefits of owning a device truly speak for themselves. 

“One shouldn’t suffer just because they don’t speak a language. True inclusion means catering to all,”

Patrick de la Hamette, founder of Digital Inclusion

Transcending geographies, languages, and biases 

Beyond providing hardware, Digital Inclusion Inclusion’s biggest contribution to the ecosystem is its ‘free-for-all-classes’ it runs to educate receipts on computer usage, refurbishment, general digital navigation, and literacy. 

These classes are for adults above the age of 18 and are hosted in 10+ languages – English, French, German, Luxembourgish, Persian, Arabic, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Tigrinya, and Ukrainian.

“We didn’t have these systems on day 1 but kept expanding as per the need. For instance, only when we began seeing heavy migration from Ukraine, we added the language. One shouldn’t suffer just because they don’t speak a language. True inclusion means catering to all,” shared Patrick de la Hamette, founder of Digital Inclusion.

Digital Inclusion also runs a language lab, where users can learn English, French, or German from their computer or smartphone with Digital Inclusion’s free digital language-learning service. Those who are part of community can come to the office on Fridays and work on their stuff – surfing including access to printing machine and guidance on any digital assistance.

The training room at the Digital Inclusion’s office (© Shewali Tiwari).

Running the finances

Since 2022, the Ministry of Family Affairs, Solidarity, Living Together and Reception of Refugees has been a steadfast supporter of Digital Inclusion, with additional support from Ville de Luxembourg to support the rental expenses. 

Moreover, Digital Inclusion has garnered support from prominent organisations in the past, including Œuvre Nationale de Secours Grande-Duchesse Charlotte, Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de l’Économie sociale et solidaire, and the European Social Fund. Additionally, the project has received sponsorship from esteemed entities such as ING, State Street, KPMG, PAI Partners, Amazon, Post Luxembourg, and Prism, ensuring the seamless operation of its initiatives.

“We’re grateful for the trust shown by the government and Luxembourg’s leading private organisations in supporting our mission. Together we can make a real difference”, concludes Digital Inclusion’s founder.

Digital Inclusion appeals to companies and private institutions to donate IT equipment or sponsor the acquisition of used devices. By repurposing decommissioned assets, they not only narrow the digital divide but also create job opportunities and mitigate environmental impact.

When asked what can the Luxembourgish citizens do to support the mission? Patrick mentioned that Digital Inclusion welcomes device (laptops) donations, and volunteers to lend their expertise to bolster their cause.

Whether through teaching, volunteering, or short-term commitments, every contribution propels their vision of digital equity for all. In an era of rapid technological advancement, Digital Inclusion stands as a beacon of hope, transforming obsolete devices into pathways to opportunity for the marginalised in Luxembourg.

Integrating Refugees Digitally

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