CALGARY July 15, 2020 – Provincial and federal governments should consider fast tracking their efforts to connect communities to high speed internet and offer training in digital skills to address the digital divide that exists between rural and remote areas and denser urban communities, according to a new report from the Canada West Foundation.
Access to broadband infrastructure, and the equipment and skills to use the internet to full advantage, are becoming increasingly critical to economic success everywhere. However, taking definitive action to improve access to digital technologies and the associated benefits in rural and remote areas of Canada, will have huge impact on rural economic development, including for Indigenous communities. The authors of Upgrade: Towards a Rural Digital Economic Strategy, lay out a variety of community economic development and other strategies that have been implemented in other jurisdictions in Canada, the U.S. and other parts of the world and the related outcomes and offer a series of recommendations to be acted upon here.
Chronic underfunding and a lack of adequate infrastructure in rural and remote areas, including many Indigenous communities has contributed to a lack of broadband infrastructure and digital skills. Under the COVID-19 pandemic, with so many people turning to reliable digital networks to work, attend to their education and even access food and clothing supplies, it’s become clear that the 2030 deadline set by the federal government to complete a pan-Canadian broadband network is too far off. Connecting the whole country together and to the world cannot be allowed to take that long and must be the first objective of a rural economic digital strategy.
“We looked at how jurisdictions of all sizes devised strategies to improve economic development in communities, especially in rural and remote areas. We learned how provinces can help create strategies for rural communities to increase their use of digital technologies for living, learning and working.” – Lead author Janet Lane, Director, Human Capital Centre, Canada West Foundation
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