CIRA report: The gap between us: Perspectives on building a better online Canada

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Released June 13, 2018

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared broadband internet as a basic service, paving the way to universal access of broadband internet. Given its prevalence in the lives of so many Canadians – where they work, play, connect socially and access many government services – CIRA reached out to individuals across Canada who are experts in internet infrastructure, access and digital literacy. Through a mostly qualitative survey, along with follow-up interviews with some participants, the results highlight a number of challenges across the country.

These range from lack of infrastructure in remote and rural areas, to lack of digital access and literacy among marginalized groups, lack of understanding around security and privacy risks, and funding barriers to address these needs. There’s also frustration that a handful of players hold the power – and receive much of the funding – to address these issues.

One of the greatest concerns shared is the increasing gap between ‘haves and have nots’, where some groups — from seniors and new Canadians, to Indigenous communities, northern and remote populations, as well as low-income individuals in urban centres — are falling further and further behind.

  1. Make first-mile connectivity a priority and encourage community ownership and local innovation.
  2. Develop critical thinking/problem solving skills among youth.
  3. Review funding models, particularly with a lens for supporting small, grassroots organizations.

  4. Fund basic digital literacy skills.
  5. Consider non-financial support for grassroots organizations.
  6. Incorporate basic cybersecurity and privacy training into pre-existing learning opportunities, particularly for marginalized populations.
  7. Grow Canada’s internet exchange points (IXPs) and encourage more peering.
  8. Develop a national affordability program that considers both price and quality and can be offered by all internet service providers equally.
  9. Find ways to link up best practices across the country.
  10. Empower teachers.