Friday, March 23, 2007

From an email from Industry Canada today re: CAP

On behalf of Deborah Davis

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

Editorial from Michael Gurstein

Learning from the LDC’s 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 Program

We 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 Norway to South Africa, from Ecuador to Australia, governments are investing in public internet for communities?

These governments understand why community internet is important to literacy rates, employment rates, and breaking down geographic and cultural barriers. These governments understand the importance of computer and internet literacy to economic growth.

Did you know that much of the world models its community internet on a program pioneered in
Canada?The Canadian model is known as the Community Access Program (CAP). It was started by Industry Canada in the mid-1990s. Its impact continues to be felt across Canadian communities both large and small.

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 Canada. It will be lost forever.The Conservative government has offered no new initiative to take the place of CAP. They refuse to comment on this. Instead, Conservatives continue to point the finger at the Liberals rather than talk about what they are actually going to do.

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

Now is not the time to stop investing in our communities.

CAP and Community ICT

How important is CAP (Industry Canada's Community Access Program) to 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:

Ottawa boosts spending plans

Eric Beauchesne

CanWest News Service

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

OTTAWA -- A double-digit hike in military spending, in part to finance the war in Afghanistan, is one of the major drivers of a six-per-cent increase in total planned federal expenditures in the coming fiscal year, government spending estimates presented Tuesday reveal.

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 Afghanistan. The increase in military spending is one the larger increases in both dollars and in percentage terms.

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.

Canada’s new government is making solid progress on its priorities, including investments in environment, defence and security, health and social programs,” Toews said in a news release. “These main estimates show the government is keeping its fiscal house in order .. .”

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 Canada will lose $202 million, or 16.9 per cent of its budget, reflecting cuts in a variety of programs including Community Access Program and SchoolNet, auto industry funding, and Ontario infrastructure program, and an initiative to provide high-capacity Internet service to aboriginal, northern and rural communities.

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.
Please let us know your opinions on this - we will share this blog with newspapers and decision makers. Nothing is certain until the budget is announced - we have time to make a difference.

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.