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The .CA Community Investment Program: building a better online Canada

By Byron Holland
President and CEO

CIRA announces funding for its Community Investment Program and shares successes including digital literacy program for Canadian kids.

The skills Canadian kids will need to succeed in the 21st century economy are very different from those their parents learned in school. The increasingly global and increasingly digital economy demands a workforce that is able to adeptly navigate the online world, be comfortable with the rapid pace of change in the technology sphere, and have more than a basic understanding of code. That’s why I believe organizations like those that help kids learn to code are so important.

One such organization is Kids Code Jeunesse, a Montreal-based not-for-profit that delivers programs nationwide. With a grant from the .CA Community Investment Program (CIP) last year, Kids Code Jeunesse was able to create an online learn to code platform for English and French elementary schools across Canada. This project has reached more than 5,000 Canadian kids to date; that’s 5,000 kids that have the foundational skills to be competitive in the global economy.

It’s also 5,000 kids that can help build a stronger digital economy in Canada.

As I write this, the Canadian dollar is at its lowest point in more than 13 years, the victim of slumping oil prices. The fact is our national economy is intrinsically tied to the volatile resource extraction sector. As a result, global events that we have little or no control over – such as a simple glut of oil on the world market – have the potential to negatively affect every Canadian.

On the other hand, a strong digital economy has the potential to drive sustainable growth across the country. However, developing a digital economy in Canada is going to take some work. While many of us would like to believe that Canada is a global leader in the digital space, the reality is something different altogether. Our relative ranking on any number of indicators of digital success have been on the decline for more than a decade. It’s time to reverse that trend.

There are pockets of digital innovators in Canada – we have one of the largest game development sectors in the world, and innovative online technologies have been developed by companies across our nation (Hootsuite and Shopify are among the most recognizable) – but, I would argue we do not yet have the foundation to build a world-leading digital economy. A critical component of that foundation is ensuring our kids have the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly competitive and global marketplace. Enter Kids Code Jeunesse and their Learn to Code initiative.

Kids Code Jeunesse is just one of the 54 projects we’ve supported (totaling more than $2.2 million) through the CIP over the past two years. They provide many examples of how community-based initiatives can help build a better online Canada, from projects to enhance local Internet access to digital literacy programs, an interactive database of Internet traffic routes, and many more. Taken together, these 54 projects demonstrate a significant step to building a better online Canada, and ensuring a successful digital future for all Canadians.

We launched the CIP in 2014 to identify and support these initiatives in an effort to broaden CIRA’s support of a strong Internet for the benefit of all Canadians. Your .CA domain name registrations help support this important work, helping us to support the development of a stronger, safer and more accessible Internet for all Canadians.

Today I am pleased to announce the opening of the third CIP application period. In 2016, we will distribute another $1 million among deserving community projects from registered charities, not-for-profit organizations, as well as research institutions. If you know an organization that could benefit from our support, please let them know about the CIP. The application period is open until March 4; details are available on our website

About the author
Byron Holland

Byron Holland (MBA, ICD.D) is the president and CEO of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), the national not-for-profit best known for managing the .CA domain and developing new cybersecurity, DNS, and registry services.

Byron is an expert in internet governance and a seasoned entrepreneur. Under Byron’s leadership, CIRA has become one of the leading ccTLDs in the world, with over 3 million domains under management. Over the past decade, he has represented CIRA internationally and held numerous leadership positions within ICANN. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for TORIX, and is a member of the nominations committee for ARIN. He lives in Ottawa with his wife, two sons, and their Australian shepherd, Marley.

The views expressed in this blog are Byron’s opinions on internet-related issues, and are not necessarily those of the organization.