Thursday, September 6, 2007
in the past decade? What Canadian program acts as a model for community internet in many
countries overseas? What federal program, after a number of years of slow suffocation, was left to wander in budget wilderness for eight weeks while federal bureaucrats contemplated who should own it?
Three questions, one right answer:
Industry Canada’s Community Access Program. CAP contributes to the cost of computers and internet access in places like schools, community centres, friendship centers and libraries.A
companion program, the CAP Youth Initiative (CAP-YI), provides paid work experience to youth. Officially, CAP is costed at $340 million over 10 years. But, through the magic of partnership and leveraging, communities have multiplied that small federal investment fivefold into a major local resource. Eighty percent of the money and resources invested in CAP
sites is leveraged locally.What’s more, in a new survey of community networks in Canada, administrators of 800 sites indicated that CED topped their list of objectives.Most of them think they have been pretty successful at it.
Shouldn’t this be front-page news, the stuff of federal press releases? I think so.This is how just three communities are spinning small amounts of CAP funding into community economic
Sea to Sky Public Access Network Squamish, B.C., within one hour’s drive of Vancouver, is the gateway to a cornucopia of treats for the outdoor tourist. Scuba diving, hiking, ski touring,
mountain biking, golfing, windsurfing, even eagle viewing are listed among the attractions this area has to offer. A midway point on the Sea to Sky Highway toWhistler, it is already getting an
economic boost from the much anticipated 2010Winter Olympics. For those who think the CAP program best suits severely isolated and/or socioeconomically challenged communities,
Squamish doesn’t appear to fit the mould. The Sea to Sky Public Access Network currently operates five CAP sites in the region.The main site is a community resource centre called “The
Hotspot” – a partnership between the localVolunteer Centre, the Sea to Sky Freenet, and the Squamish Environmental Conservation Society. The Hotspot is open to the community 12
hours a day, 7 days a week. It encompasses wireless access which covers most of the
main street in Squamish; a 15-computer full service public access lab; a ReUse I.T.
program which refurbishes and resells computers on a sliding scale; a virtual and real volunteer centre; and a community information and referral service. From its CAP site beginnings in 1997, Sea to Sky has evolved into a viable social enterprise whose key mission is accessibility for all.
“At the core is an innovative combination of partnership and collaboration, youth and technology and an enterprising attitude which has allowed us to create a niche for ourselves in the local economy while being regarded as a resource by both businesses and other nonprofit groups,”
says Pam Gliatis, co-ordinator of the Sea to Sky Network.
The Good News about CAP By Marita Moll
Monday, May 14, 2007
Forthcoming in: The Monitor. Ottawa, Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, Vol. 14 #2 June 2007
by Marita Moll
It is a little known national success story that has more outlets than Tim Hortons and has served over 20 million Canadians in the past decade.  Launched in 1994 as part of the "Connecting Canadians"
agenda, Industry Canada's Community Access Program (CAP) provides computers and Internet access in places like schools, community centres, friendship centers and libraries.
A companion program, the CAP Youth Initiative (CAP-YI), funded through Human Resources and Social Development Canada, provides paid work experience to youth. Together with the assistance of thousands of volunteers, they support the CAP sites and help immigrants, seniors, youth, First Nations and socially and economically challenged citizens to use the new communications tools.
"In Toronto, because of CAP," according to Peter Frampton, Executive Director of the Learning Enrichment Foundation, "we have immigrant women accessing supports while they work in a social enterprise; we have tenants pushing the bounds of technology to try and get a computer into every rooming house; we have groups building programs out of the CAP sites that exist in subsidized housing - teaching their kids and engaging youth." 
Despite the clear need for such a program, CAP funding dropped from
$25 million in 2005 to $8.8 million in 2006. Some transitional funding was allocated to cover the first part of 2007. Then, as thousands of committed workers held their collective breaths, funding was allowed to run out completely on April 1st, 2007.
It didn't make sense. By any measure, the CAP/ CAP-YI initiative had been extremely successful. Federal sources had estimated that there was a 20/80 split in the investments in these sites with the 80 percent representing money and resources leveraged within the community itself. A 2001 GPI (Genuine Progress Index) Atlantic survey of rural CAP sites in British Columbia indicated that the benefits extended far beyond the provision of Internet access and computer skills training. "CAP sites play an important role in strengthening rural communities, enhancing communication and reducing isolation, facilitating inclusion of youth, seniors and disadvantaged groups, promoting equity and providing opportunities for education, employment and local learning." It also showed that CAP volunteers contributed an estimated 630,000 hours of voluntary time each year to British Columbia's rural CAP sites. "These volunteer hours are worth
$9.5 million annually and are the equivalent of 330 full-time jobs,"
says the survey report. 
In 2004 Industry Canada's Audit and Evaluation Branch released an Evaluation Study of the Community Access Program (CAP) which said "the present evaluation findings indicate that CAP is a unique program that continues to be needed and relevant because there is still a digital divide in Canada and CAP has been having success at bridging this gap in public Internet access and capability."
Despite all the good news, CAP co-ordinators and volunteers waited in vain for some sign in the March 2007 budget that "Canada's New Government" was prepared to stabilize their funding. Instead, thousands of community access workers, rural and urban, were left with no funding at all, stranded in policy limbo for the next four weeks. They continued running the centers anxiously wondering what happened to Industry Canada's 10 year $600 million investment in the "Connecting Canadians Agenda".
On April 27, in response to a question from NDP literacy critic Denise Savoie (Victoria), the House of Commons was assured that the program would be funded for 2007-2008. "They've had months to complete their review of CAP and re-brand the program to make it look like they created it from scratch," said Ms. Savoie. "How long does it take to come up with a new name and re-paint the pamphlets Conservative blue?" Her challenge seems to have started a ball rolling, albeit a pretty ragged ball.
Two days later, CAP administrators received an e-mail from Industry Canada asking for "expressions of interest or formal proposals"
towards funding for the coming year. There appeared to be fundamental changes in the way the program was being delivered (through Ottawa rather than regional offices) and information requested was not well defined. In addition, some e-mail addresses in the notification were completely out of date while some current ones were not included.
Despite the four week wait for any information at all, administrators were given only two weeks to respond to this request for proposals.
On May 10th, without notifying the CAP community at all, a new "Applicants Guide" was posted on the Industry Canada website. Further to the requested "expressions of interest", administrators were required to submit formal funding applications by May 30th. When they found out about the deadline, some indicated there was no way it could be met, especially in the more remote parts of the country. Up to this point, there had still been no announcement of funding levels nor any indication of how funding would be allocated - was it to be by number of sites, geography, service levels? For those responsible for keeping services running and meeting bills in more than 3,000 communities, it was a bizarre turn of events. The program seemed to have fallen into a state of disarray.
For a government so intent on putting on a smooth public face, the recent events surrounding the funding of the CAP/CAP-YI programs have been very bumpy indeed. In the words of Industry Canada itself "the program plays a crucial role in bridging the digital divide; contributing to the foundation for electronic access to government services; encouraging on-line learning and literacy; fostering the development of community based infrastructure; and, promoting Canadian e-commerce."  So, why the lukewarm support and seemingly haphazard processes?
The dedicated people who deliver this internationally respected program, have squeezed huge social and economic benefits out of really small federal funding allotments. Yet they themselves are being treated with so little courtesy and respect it should make federal politicians blush. And it begs the question: Just how do you spell success in the current federal policy environment?
Marita Moll is a co-investigator with the Canadian Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking (CRACIN) and a CCPA research associate.
 Pacific Community Networks Association. Government kills community internet program. Press release, March 2, 2007.
 Letter to Industry Minister Bernier, Nov. 06, 2006. Personal e-mail, used with permission.
 Coleman, Ronald. "Economic value of CAP sites as investments in social capital" and "Impact of CAP sites on volunteerism." GPI Atlantic. 2002.
 Industry Canada. Evaluation of the Community Access Program Final Report. 2004.
 NDP. "Bernier must reinstate community internet access" Press release. Ottawa, April 27, 2007  Industry Canada.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Thank you for your email about the Community Access Program. Future federal support for this program remains under consideration as part of the federal budget process. We will inform all of our recipients once a final decision has been reached.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Learning from the LDC’s
http://ci-journal.net V.2. no. 3.
As developed countries are retreating from the implicit commitment to their citizens that universal Internet access will be available even to those without in-home Internet access, so such a commitment appears to be emerging within Less Developed Countries, particularly in Asia. Funding programs facilitating widespread public access have recently been cut back or cut completely in Canada, the US, Australia, and France among others. Meanwhile programs to support a widespread distribution of public access have recently been announced in India, Sri Lanka, Bangla Desh and the Philippines.
On the one hand some are saying that the recent cuts are simply policy responses in the developed countries to “mission accomplished”—the Divide Divide has been defeated (everyone who wants it can get affordable individual in-home access on low cost computers). While on the other hand, the parallel development in the Less Developed Countries (LDC’s) would seem to be a sign that those countries are willing to make a considerable financial investment in “catching up”.
In fact, the situation is somewhat more complicated than that. In the developed countries as in other instances, rather than the “mission being accomplished”, the forces at work are in more or less full-retreat not from the enemy but rather from the commitment to universal inclusion and the widespread distribution of what has now become a more or less necessary aspect of full citizenship in a democratic society—that is the ability to engage and connect with government electronically. What has been happening in developed countries is that the state seems to be giving up on those at the margins—the elderly, the deeply poor, the mentally disabled, recent immigrants—those who lack not simply the financial means to access the necessary knowledge for democratic participation which now is most easily accessed via the Internet; but who also lack the associated educational, psychological or motivational means to obtain access and realize use with support and facilitation.
At the same time and across the world, in the LDC’s the extension of such access should probably not be interpreted as a simple response to a national or global “Digital Divide”. Rather these programs should be seen as pragmatic and calculated attempts at economic and social intervention. In these instances, ICT access and use is being recognized as a fundamental element in the successful achievement of a broad based strategy for economic development and perhaps more important for realizing the transformation of traditional and largely rural societies into innovative and productive “knowledge societies”. The understanding appears to be that if these societies are to truly flourish, economic opportunity and the capacity to innovate and participate in knowledge intensive activities must be as widely accessible as possible and this can only be realistically achieved through public (and community) access.
So what we see in the developed countries is a retreat from a policy of broad based digital social inclusion. This seems to be apiece with the continuing neo-liberal erosion of the notions of inclusive citizenship. These in turn are seemingly based on an assumption that decisions concerning Internet access and use are decisions best left to individuals (and individual resources) rather than as being an aspect of social policy. At the same time in some LDC’s we see an extension of precisely the same processes of broad-based access for pragmatic social and economic reasons. So which understanding of the role and significance of broad-based Internet access is the correct one?
In fact, the intension with the programs in the LDC’s is to use the base of “universal access” (the medium term goal for these programs) as a means to enhance the delivery of public services, facilitate a broader base of engagement with governmental activities, provide support to local human resource development, and facilitate the distribution of knowledge as a basis for local innovation among others.
The question of course, is are these objectives for public access programs ones which are already fully accomplished in developed countries, or are they for some reason unnecessary, or perhaps are they beneath the range of interests of governments and public policy? There is probably little dispute that the answer to at least some of these questions is no!
Rather, as in other areas, the developed countries are, for reasons that can only be described as ideological, abandoning courses of action which would appear to be in the national long term economic and social interests, not to speak of issues of equity and social justice. While others, in some cases the direct economic competitors in LDC’s, are in fact, adopting these policies whose long term results are likely to be a sturdier and more robust base of economic activity and a solider base for moving forward into knowledge societies.
Thus while some countries are putting into place the infrastructure for a robust and innovative Internet enabled democracy others are retreating from this and allowing for increasing levels of inequality in society to become etched and made permanent through allowing for structured inequalities to persist and become socially embedded through differential access to knowledge and digitally enabled services and opportunities for participation.
This issue of the Journal unfortunately has been delayed due to a variety of unforeseen circumstances and transitions. The first major transition was that of moving from OJS 1 to OJS 2 which proved to be rather more difficult in a variety of unexpected ways than had been anticipated. The second transition is a personal one for myself, moving from the East Coast and an academic position to the West Coast and into “start-up” mode for a CI think-tank. A third transition still being resolved is towards a more formalized organizational and production structure, difficult of course since to date virtually all activities within the Journal have been voluntary and thus supported by one or another (mostly academic) infrastructure.
Hopefully, most of these and their consequences have now been absorbed and are past and that we can resume a regular schedule of publication.
Friday, March 2, 2007
Government Kills Community Internet ProgramWe are in danger of losing a truly Canadian resource. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is using the model and vision that our government is killing.
Did you know that across the world, from
Did you know that much of the world models its community internet on a program pioneered in
Did you know that, as the rest of the world continues to recognize the economic benefits gained by investing in community internet, successive Canadian governments have slowly suffocated CAP by reducing its funding?With the upcoming Conservative budget, CAP will be snuffed out. For good. CAP is a successful program with a proven economic and social impact. It cuts across nearly every community in
Did you know that the amount of technical information is doubling every two years? It is predicted to double every 72 hours by the year 2010. Now is not the time for Canada to pull their support for community training.
Communities should not have to bear the burden of partisan politics. Our literacy rates, our economic strength, and our social well-being are too important. These are investments in our future.
Well over 20 million citizens have received training or accessed the Internet from a CAP site in the past decade. A recent sample group study has shown that 93% of those who received training at a CAP Site felt that their new skills would positively impact their performance in a work or education environment.Technology is transforming so fast that much of what we learned three years ago is now nearly obsolete. Our ability to use new technology has a direct impact upon our employment opportunities. CAP delivers this opportunity to communities.
The Conservatives will announce a new budget soon. Unless you speak out, this budget will bring with it the death of CAP. If you think that public internet access is important, please let your local member of parliament know. Please email Minister of Industry Maxime Bernier at Bernier.M@parl.gc.ca.
Now is not the time to stop investing in our communities.
We would love to hear your comments. Now is the time to let everyone know how important this program is to you and to your community. It may not have been a LOT of funding - but when you take that funding and leverage other funding - it can and will be devastating to lose it.
This week the following press release was issued CAN WEST News Services:
CanWest News Service
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The government estimates it will spend nearly $231 billion in the coming fiscal year, six per cent more than was initially estimated at the start of this fiscal year. And that doesn’t include any new spending that will be announced by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in his March 19 budget.
The pre-budget increase in estimated spending includes a 14.1 per cent, or $2.1 billion hike in expenditures to $16.9 billion, by the Department of National Defence to cover a variety of additional military expenditures, such as the expansion of the Armed Forces and operations in
John Williamson, of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation noted despite the Conservative government’s pledge to rein in spending, its expenditures continue to grow faster than the economy, and faster than promised, and will continue to do so.
“The spending estimates do not include the expected increases in spending for equalization, post-secondary education, and the environment,” Williamson said. “So you have some rather large spending envelopes that will be announced March 19 which will add to the already high spending levels we are seeing from the federal government.”
While estimated spending will rise by six per cent from what was estimated a year ago, the increase is only 1.1 per cent higher than what the government now plans to spend this fiscal year, and what it said it would spend in last year’s budget, Treasury Board president Vic Toews said.
However, some departments and agencies, such as National Defence and the RCMP are getting hefty increases. The RCMP will get nearly $291 million or 14 per cent more. And that does not include almost $84 million that will be transferred to the Mounties who will take over the operations of the now defunct Canadian Firearms Centre.
The increase in funding for the RCMP is part of an eight per cent increase to $6.5 billion in spending for security and public safety. Human Resources will get a whopping $1.9 billion in new funding to compensate residents of Indian Residential Schools. Natural Resources is also getting a hefty 50.4 per cent or $719 million increase in spending.
Much of that is for nuclear waste cleanup, and for the government’s “Clean Air Agenda.” Another major spending increase will be for health care, where as a result of a 10-year deal struck with the provinces by the former Liberal government, the Canada Health Care Transfer will rise by $1.2 billion or six per cent to $21.4 billion.
There will be a $151.8 million increase in spending by the Public Health Agency of which the largest amount is to “implement avian and pandemic influenza preparedness measures.” There were also a variety of major percentage increases in spending, including for the Canada Council for the Arts, which will get a 20.5 per cent or $30.9 million increase to help individual artists and art organizations.
But there were losers too. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. will see spending cut by $280 million, or 12.4 per cent, in part reflecting a reduction in expenditures to provide affordable housing. Industry
CBC, meanwhile, will see its funding cut by $68 million or 6.1 per cent, in large part due to reductions in funding for English and French language radio, television and new media. Some of the other expenditure reductions were among the roughly $1 billion in spending cuts that were announced last fall as a part of the government’s fiscal savings program.
CanWest News Service
When talking about the above cuts with a few folks yesterday - I got the following comments:
- Is the Government doing more for Afghanis than rural Canadians?
- This is disturbing news. Can we not write our local newspapers, radio hotlines and MP’s regarding the serious and unfair impact of proposed cuts to CAP, SchoolNet, support for aboriginal and rural community connectivity and affordable housing? The Tories seem determined to create a permanent underclass of the undereducated poor.
Note: This is a media release relating to main estimates tabled last week (not the budget yet to be released) it is not an official Industry Canada Press Release. The main estimates were prepared last summer based on information on sunsetting programs. We have time to make an impact.