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E-seminar: Migrant workers’ use of ICTs for interpersonal communication

March 9, 2010

** via medianthro list **

The next EASA Media Anthropology Network e-seminar will run from 20 April to 4 May 2010 on the Network’s mailing list.

Sun Sun Lim and Minu Thomas (National University of Singapore, NUS) will be presenting a working paper entitled “Migrant workers’ use of ICTs for interpersonal communication – The experience of female domestic workers in Singapore”. These seminars are free and open to anyone with a genuine interest in the anthropology of media. To participate please drop me a line explaining briefly your interest in this field.


This paper explores ICT use by Indian and Filipino female migrant workers who are employed as live-in maids in Singapore through ethnographic interviews with twenty women. Their particular employment circumstances translate into a circumscribed and isolated living and working experience which makes their access and use of ICTs even more significant. Our findings show that these women employ a variety of technologies for everyday communication, including letters, the mobile phone and the Internet, with the mobile phone being the most crucial communication device for most of them. Mobile communications enable them to foster emotional links with their friends and family, grow their social networks and afford them greater autonomy in seeking better job opportunities and the management of their personal matters. The paper concludes by making three policy recommendations aimed at improving ICT access for migrant workers. First, upon arrival in their host countries, all migrant workers should be educated about the access, use and cost of different communication devices and services available to them. Second, contracts between employers and migrant workers should have clear provisions for the employees’ rights to communication and specifically, mobile communications. Third, governments, non-governmental organisations and the private sector should actively seek to narrow the technological divide between migrant workers’ home and host countries so that these workers’ communications with individuals and organisations in their home countries are not impeded.

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