“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
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 communities – 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.