Mark Goldberg

Pencils? Books? Computer? Broadband?

Today marks the beginning of another school year. Across Canada, millions of kids are preparing to meet new teachers, telling stories about what this did this past summer.

Many are wearing new outfits and are carrying new backpacks filled with the supplies they bought at “back-to-school” sales over the past couple of weeks. Some basic school supplies haven’t changed for generations. Do kids still buy protractors and compasses along with their pencils, pens and loose-leaf paper?

Cutting and pasting weren’t always done digitally. Are we past the days of collecting old magazines to carefully cut out pictures and paste them into school projects? I wonder if kids in today’s elementary school generation know where the computer terms “cut” and “paste” come from.

Incidentally, Duo-Tang, the original manufacturer of the report cover of choice for generations, was bought out nearly 15 years ago. Sure, those Duo-Tangs were theoretically reusable, but who among us didn’t want to submit our projects with a brand new cover? Each of us had our own style for folding the tangs. Who folded the tangs together? Who split them? Anyone alternate the direction of the three sets of tangs? Kids: if you don’t know what I am talking about, ask your parents.

Most Canadian school-aged kids have a computer at home to connect with their friends and their teachers, using online tools to get their assignments and submit them for assessment and evaluation. What about students who still don’t have a computer at home, let alone a broadband connection? How are they able to keep up with their schoolmates? It isn’t enough for them to have access to computers in public libraries and in a room at school; kids do homework at home. How can we expect them to succeed in today’s digitally enhanced education system?

TELUS [Internet for Good] and Rogers [Connected for Success] have bold corporate initiatives to target certain households in their wireline operating territories with affordable broadband programs. But despite these great programs, there are hundreds of thousands of homes outside their areas. To date, no cable company or phone company has stepped up with a targeted affordable broadband product for residents of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia, or PEI. Government programs have typically subsidized the supply of broadband based on geography, without looking at stimulating demand with subsidies looking at financial means.

Another school year is underway. Another opportunity for a fresh look.

Watch out for kids as you drive to work. When you get to the office, whether it is government or private sector, see how you can help get connected computers into every household with school-aged kids.

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