Canadians concerned about digital literacy and Internet’s economic impact: CIRA report

The Internet’s current and future development is on the minds of Canadians, according to a new report summarizing the concerns of the country’s first Canadian Internet Forum.

With its pervasive economic, social and cultural impact undeniable, a new study, The Internet and Canada’s Future: Opportunities and Challenges, carried out by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, has tried to identify the various Internet issues most important to Canadians.

And while Canada has, thus far, been among the world leaders in Internet deployment and use, the study found that confidence in Canada continuing on this course is fleeting:

“In recent years, international comparative studies repeatedly have shown that Canada is falling behind on key Internet indicators such as the speed and cost of broadband access and Internet uptake by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In addition, concerns were repeatedly expressed about current Internet adoption in the public sector, particularly in Canada’s education and health care systems.”

To combat this, respondents said Internet development and use should be a national priority to keep all regions of Canada competitive in the digital economy.

The strategy has two major themes: digital literacy and economic development.

Digital literacy can be broadly defined as the capacity to use the Internet and other digital media at school, in the workplace, and in daily life, and also to be able to understand, contextualize, and critically evaluate digital media. Economic development challenges and opportunities include fostering innovation, generating jobs, enhancing productivity and competitiveness, improving the quality and efficiency of government and public services, and supporting sustainable economic growth by helping reduce the environmental impacts of economic and social activities.

In discussing these goals, the CIF found that they fed off one another:

“[D]igital literacy and economic development should be seen as complementary components of an Internet governance strategy aimed at creating a virtuous circle in which widespread digital literacy enables sustainable economic growth, which in turn generates new requirements for digital literacy, along with the wealth needed to support its continuous development throughout the population.”

Creating this “virtuous cycle”, however, will take some work. The report identifies the following points as essential to creating this ecosystem:

  • Achieving universal and affordable access to world-class Internet infrastructure and services.
  • Equipping Canadians with the knowledge and skills they need to participate and prosper in the digital economy and global information society.
  • Ensuring a stable and secure online environment for individuals and organizations in the private and public sectors, through effective management of critical Internet resources and protecting the privacy and other rights of Internet users.
  • Promoting Internet-enabled innovation in business, government, education, and health care.
  • Promoting digital inclusion of all communities and segments of the Canadian population.

CIRA plans to present the results of the CIF to the sixth meeting of the UN Internet GovernanceForum this September in Nairobi, Kenya, in an effort to share Canadians’ experience on the world stage.

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