As April 2012, The Canadian government cut all federal funding to community access programs, which provide internet access to those who can’t afford it.
Here is a copy of the notification letter sent by Industry Canada to the CAP programs: Termination Letter
The Canadian government and Industry Canada justified the cuts by stating the program can be terminated because the program had achieved its goal of bring computers and technology to Canadians across the country. Not all people in Canada access in their homes. As mentioned before a fifth of Canadian households don’t have internet (number could be higher considering the survey did not include date from the northern territories). The CAP sites are needed for those who can’t afford the internet.
In Nova Scotia alone there are 309 CAP sites (40 of those are in the Halifax Metro Area). These programs also provide 15 people with full-time employment. These programs are important!
If you feel passionately about the saving our CAP programs please check out: SAVE CAP. This site has a ready made letter that you can send your MP or your MLA. All the information about your local MP or MLA can be found on this website as well.
HELP GET THE CAP SITES BACK ONLINE!
I have talked a lot on this blog about how difference places are trying to bridge the digital divide but I haven’t really taken the time to explained what the digital divide is and why it is important to close the gap.
The Digital Divide can be described as the gap between those who have access to the internet and ICTs and those that do not. In Canada, as mentioned before, this gap is largely based on income differences. Homeless populations are also included in those who do not have internet access, for obvious reasons. But why is the internet so important?
It has been suggested that people who don’t have access to communication technology may face fewer educational and employment opportunities which will impact on their social and physical well-being. Take a second and think about how much your life now revolve around the internet. Mine relies on it a lot. How did I research the information for this project- the Internet. How will I gather information on and eventually apply to graduate school-the internet. How do I look for a job for next summer to help pay for school-the Internet. My educational and economic possibilities rely heavily on having access to the internet.
A democracy and the people with it, rely on access to information. The internet is the fastest and most convenient way to access information.
Last semester I was lucky enough to go on exchange to the University of Newcastle in Australia. During breaks in the semester, I was able to travel to up the East Coast, visiting Melbourne all the way up to Cairns. I had a fantastic time and will remember the experience for the rest of my life. As a result of this life-changing experience, I have this lasting curiosity and have a tendency to compare Canada with Australia on how they handle certain issues. While researching information for this project, I looked up community access sites in Australia and found this great piece in Parity Magazine about how Australia is trying to bridge the digital divide about Homeless Youth.
Public Access Sites are a great way to provide the internet to those who can afford it, but they do come with some concerns. the major concerns are:
- expense of related costs such as printing
- lack of privacy
- inability to access all websites
- limited access hours
As a result of these growing concerns, Front Yard youth services in Melbourne asked a group of young people what would make an effective Public Access Site. Here is what they suggested:
- Co-located services: have a variety of services at one location. This will also help with infrastructure costs which is a major deterrent for access sites
- Social Interaction: one of the most important things mentioned was having a social and friendly atmosphere. Many street youth come from negative home environments and would respond better to services in a friendly environment
- Flexible Training and Learning
The reality in Halifax, Nova Scotia is that one-third of the homeless population is under the age of 24. Recent investigations into street life found that youth people describes themselves as not having a choice to stay at home because of turbulent family backgrounds or environments with severe abuse. Most of the youth want and crave a conventional lifestyle. Now the conventional lifestyle revolves around having regular access to the interact.
Dr. Jeff Karabanow, a professor at Dalhousie University, has written several books and articles on street youth within the Halifax Metro area. In his article “Being Hooked Up”, Karabanow describes how street interact with Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), which is how people network through the internet. Through this typing of networking, people are able to gain skills required for “being online”. Lacking these skills and faced with other inequalities, marginalized groups may have deeper feelings of isolation and social exclusion.
In his study, Karabanow found that young people living on the street and/or in emergency shelters and supportive housing structures are not only familiar and comfortable with ICTs but interact with the technology on a regular basis. Karabanow later goes on to explain that this familiarity may be linked to the fact that street young come from homes with internet access and have grown up with this technology at their disposal.
Although in a different region, the frequency of internet use can be seen in a recent survey. Professors at the University of Alabama conduct a survey which found that 75% of homeless youth use at least one social media site and internet use is similar to regular college students: Homeless Youth and Social Media Survey
The severity of the level of homelessness in Canada has been hidden for quite sometime so I find it ironic that the campaign for a national youth homelessness awareness day would also be hidden. While conducting research for this project, I stumbled upon on the campaign by Ontario MP Carolyn Bennett and Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, for Canada to create a national day to advocacy for the homeless youth. (Please noted that November is National Youth Homelessness Awareness MONTH in the US). I don’t think a day of recognition is too much to ask.
Virgin Unite news release on their campaign: National Youth Homelessness Awareness Campaign
Why is a national awareness day important? The answer: Times Colonist Piece
The University District of Seattle, is lined with shops and cafes where students and faculty from the near by University of Washington can sit and use the widely available wireless internet on their smart phones and laptops. But not everyone in the area can afford that luxury. Within the 8-block area surrounding the university, there are a number of, largely hidden, homeless youth. In order to gain a better understanding of the problem of limited internet access for homeless youth, Jill Palzkill Woelfer and David G. Hendry, created a community information center and a three-week series of six classes, called New Tech for Youth Sessions.
Over 18 months, Woelfer and Hendry investigated how homeless youth were using the internet that the community center was able to provide. They found that the youth were able to:
- use the digital tools to find employment
- tell stories with representations of the built world
- portray life on the streets with video
- construct online identities
The youth were able to use tools such as Google Street View to tell the story of their lives, like pinpointing a safe spot on street where they slept or showing others their childhood home. By sharing these stories, the youth were able to start to build positive relationships with other youth and members of the support agencies. Many youth who are on the street become fearful of institutions which try to help.
Editorial cartoon featured in the Chronicle Herald (Halifax’s Daily Newspaper) after the news of the funding cuts to the CAP programs was released