I’ve spoken widely about my concerns regarding Canada’s standing in global connectivity rankings. Canada is certainly not the leader that we once were. Our peers in Asia and Europe have made connectivity a national priority and, in large part, have overtaken us in rankings from the OECD, ITU, Berman, and others.
We are seeing signs that Canada’s Internet community is starting to take this challenge seriously. The CRTC made the impressive call to start considering broadband Internet a “basic service” for the purposes of regulation, opening up new resources to help connect rural and under-served markets. The Government of Canada is working on an unparalleled – in Canada at least − $500 million package to support broadband in Canada.
Broadband, connectivity, and our digital competitiveness have risen on the national agenda in a meaningful way.
With this as a backdrop, I am more excited than ever to announce that a fourth round of funding is now available from CIRA’s Community Investment Program. CIRA is committing another $1 million in funding to support Canada’s Internet community. Our program is designed to fund grassroots projects that use digital technology to improve the Internet in Canada. We offer grants enabling community-scale broadband deployments, new digital literacy training, innovative online services, and research into emerging digital issues.
CIRA has injected over $3 million into the Internet community, and I know that the projects that we’ve funded are helping to lay the groundwork for solutions that will ensure success in ambitious national broadband targets.
In Ashlu Creek, for example, CIRA paid for the installation of cellular towers to connect the region to universal and affordable Internet for the first time. The community came together to solve the connectivity issues that the major ISPs weren’t addressing and with a meaningful grant, they are taking ownership over their digital future.
In Ottawa, the local non-profit EcoEquitable has created a training program to equip newcomers to Canada with e-commerce and entrepreneurship skills they need to generate meaningful income from textile manufacturing. The program has enrolled 30 participants and is helping them to not only survive on their craft, but create businesses that help them thrive. This is evidence of the creativity that can surface when technology is deployed to address community issues and concerns.
No one has a monopoly on innovation. The solutions to Canada’s persisting digital divides will not come solely from a central point, or through government decrees and funding – they will arise from the communities across the country, from Vancouver’s downtown eastside, to Cambridge Bay, to rural Nova Scotia. Canadians have no shortage of great ideas and CIRA’s Community Investment Program is our way of bringing some of these ideas to life.
CIRA funds community access to the Internet, digital literacy programming, online services, infrastructure and Internet security, and academic research from coast, to coast, to coast. If you have a project that you think might fit the bill, we want to hear from you.
You can find the application materials and guidelines online at www.cira.ca/cip.