OTTAWA, MARCH 24, 2022 – At a time when Canadians rely more than ever on internet access for work, school, and entertainment, many still lack the speeds and skills they need to participate in our increasingly digital world. But a new report from CIRA titled Getting Connected: Funders and Digital Equity in Canada shows Canadian funders are feeling urgency to tackle the country’s digital inequities.
Based on in-depth interviews with 20 leaders in Canada’s philanthropic community, the study finds that while funders have not historically prioritized bridging Canada’s digital divide, they now agree it’s a priority. During the pandemic, funders report being inundated with requests for connectivity and digital tools and saw first-hand how Canada’s digital divide slows their efforts to engage Canadians on urgent social issues like climate change or racial justice.
“The digital divide is holding back communities and slowing their progress. As funders, we need to make sure that we are conscious of digital equity and pay close attention to it,” says Jehad Aliweiwi, Executive Director, Laidlaw Foundation. “It must become a lens by which we assess everything.”
Where previous research found digital equity funding to be limited, Getting Connected shows that funders believe this needs to change. While most have yet to step up with dedicated resources, the report lays out concrete recommendations to bring new funders into the fold and increase the resources available for digital development projects.
- A scan of the funding sector over the past decade shows that funders have not prioritized digital development.
- The pandemic forced funders to confront digital equity challenges. They now agree this is a priority, though the level of commitment varies.
- Some funders are reluctant to fund digital equity because they lack subject-matter expertise and confidence that they will engage at the right level.
- Funders feel there is an opportunity to create a coalition and develop a community of practice and shared vision.
- Some funders see opportunities to pool resources into a shared fund or to explore collaborative funding approaches to tackle the issues head on.