One million computers

Canada needs a million computers for lower income households.

We have computers in 81.7% of our households, heavily skewed by income. High income households are already computer equipped – better than 97% of households in the top income quintile have a computer and virtually all of them are internet connected. But in the lowest income quintile, only half of the households have a computer. I think this points to computer ownership being an affordability issue. 

Canada has about 12.5 million households, so each quintile represents 2.5M homes. We need to start with households with school aged children. If we want to have the world’s most digitally literate economy, we need to make sure that no kids are left behind because their parents couldn’t afford a computer to help them compete.

Of Toronto’s 1.8M households, around 225,000 are without computers. In Montreal, there are about 300,000 households without a computer. Vancouver: 100,000. Many urban centres lag the national average; Yellowknife has among the highest rate of computer ownership.

A million computers will bring the lowest income households to parity. One Laptop Per Child set out to provide the world’s poorest children with a connected laptop computer. Shouldn’t all Canadian children be comparably (if not better) equipped?

How many computers are being discarded from corporations that should find their way out of recyclers and into the hands of school kids? Are there low cost incentives to encourage re-use of business computers and stimulate investment in new machines? Can we develop a voucher system that encourages competition among retailers to win the business of eligible households?

Virtually all households with computers already have an internet connection, but one in five Canadian households lacks a computer. To grow the market for internet services, we need to increase the number of households with computers. That represents an opportunity for more than 2 million new household connections. What is the role of the telecom services industry in increasing computer ownership?

One million computers. What ideas do you have?

Forty years ago, my father participated on the Commission on Emotional and Learning Disorders in Children that issued a report called “One Million Children” providing a blueprint for meeting the needs of one million Canadian children with primary learning disorders. The title of that report inspired the title of this blog post. We need to ensure that all Canadian children have access to the tools to succeed. 

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