Thursday, September 6, 2007

Good News - CAP

What has more outlets across Canada than Tim Hortons and has served over 20 million citizens
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
development gold.
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