50 in-depth interviews
65 online survey responses
Based on 50 in-depth telephone interviews conducted in April and May with not-for-profit and civil society organizations, Indigenous communities, academics and researchers, government, social innovation entities and philanthropic foundations, and an online survey completed by 65 respondents in June, a lack of funding sources was identified as contributing to low activity and growth momentum in key areas such as infrastructure development, digital literacy education and community leadership.
Some government grants and programs do exist, but they are largely inaccessible to most non-profit organizations and charities, respondents to the survey said. The broader philanthropic community in Canada is largely unaware of this digital funding gap, because it is not well defined in comparison to other issues that are traditionally well-funded, such as health, environment, poverty and others.
The broader philanthropic community in Canada is largely unaware of this digital funding gap, because it is not well defined in comparison to other issues that are traditionally well-funded, such as health, environment, poverty and others.
This stands in stark contrast to other countries, particularly the United States, where numerous foundations, think-tanks and other philanthropic organizations provide significant funding for internet-related issues.
The funding that is available in Canada is also almost always on an ad-hoc, per-project basis. Core funding to establish and maintain organizations with long-term vision and goals around systemic change is nearly non-existent, the survey found.
These issues show up in a number of ways, from outright lack of internet access in many regions of the country – particularly rural, remote and Indigenous communities – to services that are unaffordable for many people in even the most urbanized parts. Large portions of the population continue to be unsure of how to use online resources, while civil society groups find themselves unable to push for necessary policy changes.
The result is a gap where many Canadians remain actually or effectively unconnected and therefore increasingly left behind by the digital economy. An imbalance in which government and regulators make policy decisions based largely, or even solely, on input from industry also exists. In the COVID-19 era, these problems stand to worsen.
Respondents to The Strategic Counsel survey detailed a comprehensive list of problems related to digital development and provided some suggestions on solutions. Their feedback is presented here, supplemented with on-the-record anecdotes and opinions gathered from further interviews in an effort to determine the scope of the issue. Suggested actions that CIRA and other stakeholders can take to move Canada forward follow.