Tuesday, 26 July 2016

$180 Million in Government funding brings high-speed internet to Southwestern Ontario communities

The governments of Canada and Ontario are committed to supporting innovation and encouraging economic activity that contributes to growing the middle class. That is why the federal and provincial governments are providing up to $180 million in joint funding to improve high-speed internet connectivity to over 300 communities in Southwestern Ontario.
The funding was announced today by the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, on behalf of the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and the Honourable Bob Chiarelli, Ontario Minister of Infrastructure.
Once complete, the SouthWestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project will ensure that individuals from all walks of life have access to the new fibre optic network. From small-business owners and senior citizens to students and rural physicians, this project will significantly increase the potential for innovation and economic development across the region resulting in safer, more inclusive and more prosperous communities.
The total estimated project cost is $281 million. The governments of Canada and Ontario will each contribute up to $90 million through the New Building Canada Fund's Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Component–Small Communities Fund. The Western Ontario Wardens' Caucus will be responsible for the remaining project costs.

Click here to read the announcement.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Chamber urges Ontario to expand Internet access in rural areas

“Access to high speed Internet is essential for Windsor-Essex businesses to compete in the 21stcentury global economy,” said Matt Marchand, president and CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“It is critical that all regions across Ontario, especially rural areas, have access to this essential infrastructure.”
Tom Bain, Essex County warden and Lakeshore mayor, said there are a number of “dead zones” across the county; in areas such as St. Joachim, Emeryville and Lighthouse Cove.
“So many of our small businesses depend on the Internet for their advertising, for the selling products online,” said Bain.  “They get extremely frustrated when they can’t carry on business properly;  you need that speed today.”
Bain noted that the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus has long been pushing for ultra-high-speed Internet across the region through  SWIFT, a $287-million project that would be jointly funded governments and the private sector.
“We are getting positive signals from Queen’s Park,” said Bain, adding he was hopeful an announcement would be forthcoming before the end of summer.

Click here to view the complete report.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Hello Digital Equity!

Not long ago it was the fashion to talk about rural areas being on the wrong side of something called “The Digital Divide”.  In today’s hyper-connected world there isn’t much appetite for the simplistic Internet “haves/have nots” debate. In part, most of us realize that access to the Internet is anything but simple. Accessing and using the Internet is influenced by a number of many different factors – not the least of which is both afforda
ble and good quality of service. More importantly, as more and more services go online – including those related to community engagement and democratic processes such as public elections - we need to remember that putting something on the Internet does not make it accessible.
In their newly published essay “Goodbye Digital Divide – Hello Digital Equity (and why we have to Go the Extra Mile to get it)” Lareen Newman and Michael Gurstein, colleagues from the world of community informatics, ask the billion-dollar question:
“Do those proposing that everything move online genuinely believe that there are no longer people who aren’t online? Or could it be that this myth serves some other purpose – as for example acting as a way to choke off access to services, cut administrative costs on the backs of those most in need of those services (but most unable to access those services digitally)?”
Newman and Gurstein are taking issue with the idea that we need more Internet access because “everyone’s online these days”. In fact, we have to go an “Extra Mile” and recognize that not everyone is online these days and Internet use differs according to education level, reading/writing ability, rural-urban location, ethnic group and gender. Stop measuring “access” and think “meaningful use”. For example, how many rural residents are using e-health services, or are unemployed youth finding jobs in their communities because local employers are posting vacancies on their website, Facebook or Twitter? And one more good point in this paper, maybe there are opportunities for innovation by brokering meaningful use of the Internet to those who are digitally excluded?

Source:  Newman L & Gurstein M (2016) Goodbye Digital Divide, Hello Digital Equity. Available at: https://croakey.org/goodbye-digital-divide-hello-digital-equity-and-whywe-need-to-go-the-extra-mile-to-get-it/