Monday, October 6, 2008
Telecommunities Canada (TC) today launched the “Internet for Everyone”
campaign (www.internetforeveryone.ca) that seeks to put a national ICT strategy back on the federal agenda.
“In the current election, none of the political parties are treating the absence of any national strategy for the uses of the internet for development as an issue,” says Garth Graham, Internet strategist and member of the TC board of directors.
As part of any such national strategy, the primary concern of TC members, community-based practitioners who are supporting this campaign, will be the question of digital inclusion. Once a leader in Internet access, Canada is now facing a harsh reality as the early promise of achieving universal digital inclusion has not been realized. According to a recent OECD study (2007), Canada went from 2nd to 10th place on the list of connected nations with only 26.6 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants.
“We started down this road to digital inclusion with high ideals, lots of political will and excellent programs in place. It’s incredible that we have allowed our position to slip so dramatically,” says TC president Gareth Shearman.
Over the past five years, federally supported programs directed towards those with limited access and ability to use the technology have been struggling with ever diminishing financial support. The Community Access Program (CAP) and its companion Youth Initiative Program (CAP-YI) are the backbone of a national network of community technology centers that help millions of people annually to incorporate new technologies into their lives. Despite the cuts, they remain vibrant centres in local community’s proof of the need for and commitment of local organizations and volunteers.
These sites and their young facilitators, along with a legion of volunteers, provide job search and software training, technology literacy programs, access to community services, and cultural integration opportunities. They partner with the local private and public sector to provide services and experienced personnel in many different areas from film editing to website building. Along the way, thousands of CAP-YI trained youth gain experience that helps them move on in the world. Both internal and external evaluations of this program have agreed that it has been a win-win relationship for years.
There has been plenty of support, both from the public and private sector, for allocating some of the spectrum auction proceeds toward a national ICT strategy. “The unanticipated success of the spectrum auction provides an opportunity for us to get back into the game,” says Mr. Shearman.
The “Internet for Everyone” campaign will ask federal candidates where they stand on this issue.
Telecommunities Canada (www.tc.ca) is a national coalition of groups that promote and support community technology initiatives.
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