Organizations looking to launch projects that will improve connectivity in northern and Indigenous communities could be eligible for funding.
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is offering a total of $1.25 million for projects dedicated to infrastructure, cybersecurity and digital literacy. Those that benefit northern, rural, and Indigenous communities, as well as students will be prioritized.
Each project could be eligible for up to $100,000.
Maureen James is the community investment program manager at CIRA.
“I will say right out of the gate that we have not had a lot [of project pitches] from Canada’s North,” she explains, adding she hopes for that to change this year.
The grant is available for any not-for-profit internet service providers, registered charities and academics or researchers affiliated with a Canadian university or college.
“We have funded all sorts of interesting projects, I think the ones that make a lot of difference to people’s connectivity are where communities have kind of come up with their own solution,” she says. “So we have an example of a guy in central Alberta… who set up an organization that is basically single-handedly bringing wireless to the entire reserve of 600 homes.”
Kyle Napier is a spokesperson for DigitalNWT, an organization that promotes digital literacy and advocates for improving connectivity in the NWT.
He says he hopes organizations in the NWT are able to take advantage of the program.
“What I’d like to see is more Indigenous internet service providers, and those that that are counter to potential perceived monopolies. Because what’s happening with a lack of competition is inaccess by the general public, particularly by those living outside of Yellowknife, Inuvik, Fort Smith and Norman Wells,” he says.
Affordable internet in the North
Napier also discussed first ever Day of Action for Affordable Internet for all Canadians, an event that was difficult for northerners to participate in as it was held virtually.
“It’s no fault to the organizers. But it certainly illustrates — I would argue in a comedic way — just how bad the digital divide is, when you can’t even participate in the conversation about how you’re excluded,” he says.
Dependence on good internet became more necessary as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also affected DigitalNWT.
Offering face-to-face classes became impossible as a result of the pandemic and the organization was forced to get creative.
One of those creative workarounds included downloading course materials on USBs and mailing them to participants.
Anyone interested in finding out what courses are available and in registering can email DigitalNWT@UAlberta.ca.