A National Strategy Towards Improved On-line Assets for Socio-Economic Development
Developed from a community discussion at the 2009 ICT Summit, Vancouver, B.C.
The 21st century is likely to be known, in the future, as the “communications” revolution. This is a world in which citizens are producers, not just consumers, of products and services of all kinds. Socio-economic development will proceed lock-step with access to robust and secure internet connections, a new “essential service” in an on-line world. In this world, Canadians need a map of on-line assets, technological and social, and a flexible, on-going strategy to ensure that no community and no citizen is excluded. The formulation of such a strategy should be guided by a national multi-stakeholder council – a cohesive single voice that reflects the diversity of our society. The implementation of such a strategy needs to be guided by the local communities affected.
Socio-economic problems and their solutions are both diverse and interlinked. In the 21st century, on-line assets are deeply implicated in many of social indicators used by national (Statistics Canada) and International (OECD) to compare and assess social trends, policies and outcomes. Health Canada’s Determinants of Health, for example, include income and social status, social support networks, education and literacy, employment and working conditions and health services. Connectivity has an impact on every one of these determinants and Canadians need national baseline data to assess our “health” in that area.
The following specific issues were raised:
Sustainable communities require robust and symmetrical internet capacity that enables inclusion and full participation in the on-line world. They also require a long-term strategy to upgrade that capacity to reflect upper-tier world levels is quickly as possible. These facilities should be locally owned and operated in the same way as roads, sewers and bridges are locally owned and operated. They are an essential part of the infrastructure of the 21st century community.
And just as education and training for life in the 20th century was part of the responsibility of a community to its citizens, so should education and training for life in the 21st century be among the responsibilities of modern communities. The role of current programs, including the Community Access Program (CAP), should be reframed to recognize that effective use of new technologies requires ongoing access to expertise and solutions to specific needs as much as it requires access to initial training. Such training should be available even before full connectivity is achieved.
Implementing such a strategy will require building partnerships that involve all sectors of the community (including youth and First Nations). Best practices in developing strategies, such as that of the B.C. First Nations Technology Council Grassroots Strategy, need to be studied and adapted where possible. Adaptable models – both international and national – should be part of the knowledge we bring to such an endeavour.