Digital literacy starts with computers

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains announced a $1.25M one time cash injection to the Computers for Schools program to provide 7,500 refurbished computers and technical support to Syrian refugees.

Computers for Success Canada—Ordinateurs pour l’excellence Canada (CFSC-OPEC), through the Computers for Schools (CFS) program, makes available refurbished computers at little or no cost to those who may not otherwise have access to technology and opportunities to learn digital skills.

It is great to see the Minister investing in digital literacy skills for people who are disadvantaged, a theme about which I have written a few times in the past – maybe more than a few times [such as here, and here and here and here, among others].

All the low-cost broadband in the world won’t help a family that can’t afford the up-front cost of a computer. Recall my opening comments from The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit last June:

I will repeat what I said last year: “Kids need computers at home to do homework.”

Six weeks ago, south of the border, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wrote:

Students who lack broadband access at home are unable to complete basic schoolwork. They have trouble keeping up in the classroom. More than that, they are holding our educational efforts back.

The homework gap is the cruelest part of the digital divide. But we can take steps now to tackle it — steps that will help students get their schoolwork done, help expand access to the Internet, and help grow our digital economy.

Canada’s Digital Strategy, follows the politically attractive path that continues (and expands) the subsidy systems based on geography. Hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed to subsidize rural and remote regions without regard to the actual financial needs of consumers.

It is great to see the Minister targeting aid on the basis of need. As I have written before, too often, government programs have looked at providing cash on the basis of geography without focusing specifically on those who need help, regardless of where they live. It is an important message for the CRTC as it prepares for the opening of its Review of basic telecommunications services hearing next month.

The 2016 Canadian Telecom Summit will include a session looking at “Strengthening Canada’s Digital Advantage in a Hyper-connected Global Economy”, hosted by Namir Anani of the Information & Communications Technology Council (ICTC). (ICTC has just released a national digital talent strategy paper.)

The Canadian Telecom Summit takes place this year from June 6-8 in Toronto. Have you registered yet??

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