Expanding connectivity in rural, northern and Indigenous communities

Created on December 9, 2016 by OnLibraryAssoc.  9 comments


I want Ontario to spend over $250,000 to fund a digital service about Internet access through public libraries in order to invest in community infrastructure projects.

Internet access in libraries in rural, northern and Indigenous communities

This idea has been selected for voting.

The Government of Ontario will determine how projects are implemented; which may not be as described in the original submission. We are not, by posting a submission for public voting, endorsing any organization, technology, location or other content in the original submission, and we may or may not implement the project or use the organization, technology or location referenced in the original submission when implementing the project.

What is your project idea? 

While much of Ontario is connected to broadband access, there are many small, rural and Indigenous communities that do not have equitable access to the Internet and digital resources. Ontarians who live in small, rural communities are limited by their location: they are unable to use the Internet to collaborate with others, research through online learning, gain tech-based skills, and participate in distance education programs.

Libraries present a unique and affordable opportunity to provide communities with Internet access at home and in public libraries.

Libraries offer innovative services like WiFi hot-spot lending programs to help people have access to education and library resources at home. Public libraries also provide crucial access to e-resources, e-learning and connectivity to their entire communities, yet many smaller libraries cannot fully support access due to limitations in broadband and bandwidth.

Further infrastructure is needed to fully connect Ontarians. Our idea focuses on improving the technology infrastructure of public libraries in rural, Northern and Indigenous communities so that they:

- Receive financial support for additional Wi-Fi hot spot lending programs
- Have the required infrastructure (broadband and bandwidth) to support growing communities
- Provide a sufficient online experience for Ontarians (both in libraries and online at home)
- Are better equipped to run technology/STEM-based programs

Success for this endeavour will be measured through reports by the Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport, as well as benchmarking reports by the Ontario Library Association, which record Internet connectivity and tech-based programming in public libraries across Ontario. Ontario’s public libraries, the Ontario Public Library Association (OPLA, a division of OLA), and the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries (FOPL) would be involved in this project.

The cost of this project would require further research into points of presence, which we could align with a needs assessment of rural and Indigenous libraries who have connectivity limitations.

How will this idea provide a solution? 

Our idea would benefit Ontarians in smaller communities. By strengthening the technology infrastructure in rural, northern, and Indigenous communities where libraries are critical resources, we would benefit:

- Youth through providing them with valuable tech- and STEM-based programming, thus enhancing exposure and interest in STEM careers
- Seniors through removing geographical barriers and social isolation, and providing them with connection to online resources, programs and networks.
- Job seekers, who often visit their rural library for computer training, a common requirement for many job applications

Data shows the value of public libraries in providing Internet access to smaller communities. 28% of Ontarians rely on the public library for Internet access. 25% of Ontarians rely on Wi-Fi access at the public library. Overall, 26% of Ontario residents rely on the public library where they do not have internet access at home or work. (Market Probe Canada, 2015). These rates are higher in rural and remote areas of Ontario.

There are also often limitations in tech-based programming opportunities due to connectivity issues in small, rural or Indigenous libraries. The following percentages show public libraries with populations between 5K and 15K who are able to provide tech programming (68 libraries surveyed):

- Digital technology programming: 15.63% (population under 5K) and 22.22% (5K-15K)
- STEM: 0% (under 5K) / 16.67% (5K-15K)
- Cartooning: 5.56% (under 5K) / 27.78% (5K-15K)
- Film and video: 18.75% (under 5K) / 21.88% (5K-15K)

Source: http://www.accessola2.com/opla/ChildandYouthReport2015.pdf

Is there anything else we should consider? 

Supporting this idea would provide much needed support for small libraries, who are often limited in staff and technology resources. We are aware of funding, staffing and programming limitations of rural, northern and remote libraries in Ontario. Changes to the Industry Canada (now Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada) Youth Internship Program impacted the ability of small libraries to provide technology programming. For twenty years, the Youth Internship Program provided connectivity and hardware funding (this portion was discontinued in 2012) and funds for summer youth employment experience in the training and delivery of e-services. In 2014, the terms of this program changed resulting in small libraries becoming ineligible.

Our idea also helps small libraries to play an integral role as technology hubs who support the province’s goal to create an innovation-driven economy (2016 Budget, Business Growth Initiative).

Project ID: 2729

Internet access in libraries in rural, northern and Indigenous communities

This idea has been selected for voting.

The Government of Ontario will determine how projects are implemented; which may not be as described in the original submission. We are not, by posting a submission for public voting, endorsing any organization, technology, location or other content in the original submission, and we may or may not implement the project or use the organization, technology or location referenced in the original submission when implementing the project.

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 I have something to add Posted on December 9, 2016 by Essa Public Library

Digital Access creates opportunities to learn and connect, especially to those living in remote communities.


 I agree with this Posted on December 9, 2016 by Rebecca Hunt

As the CEO of a small rural public library in Northeastern Ontario I can attest to the importance of internet access and digital technology programming in public libraries in rural areas. Internet access allows our senior, low income and other users to connect with their families, access distance education, access government services online and look for and apply for employment. At our library, wifi access has more than doubled in the past five years as more people with gadgets but no internet access at home use technology for social, educational, research and leisure purposes at the library. Digital technology programming helps to place our youth on a level playing field so that they are familiar with and comfortable with 3-D printing, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, film and video media and other newer technologies when they move to more urban areas for education or employment. It also encourages our youth to be creators and innovators of digital media rather than just consumers of digital media which is an asset in our knowledge economy. Unfortunately the capacity of smaller, rural and indigenous libraries to provide these vital services in their communities is often jeopardized by municipal, provincial and federal funding reductions, not to mention that many of those libraries are underfunded and understaffed in the first place. I fully agree with a project in the provincial budget to fund an initiative to improve the technology infrastructure of public libraries in rural, Northern and Indigenous communities and strengthen the role of those public libraries as community hubs in their areas.


 I agree with this Posted on December 9, 2016 by Marie

In late 2015 our Library applied for additional Internet Connectivity Grant moneys through SOLS to increase the public access to the internet and better WIFI. Until then we barely had sufficient DSL service. With 9 public computers the system was constantly crashing. We were successful in obtaining coverage for 10mbps, which made a huge difference for our patrons. With this grant we started offering free WIFI to the public. My philosophy was that since the Ontario government was subsidizing the service it should be free for the public.
We enjoyed the service for 6 months and then learned that it was being cancelled and would only be covered until the end of 2016. This grant represented 1% of our total budget and having to find the money elsewhere will mean cutbacks to other services. Once free WIFI has been available to the public it is difficult to start charging in the future, it would mean going backwards.


 I agree with this Posted on December 9, 2016 by Aliki

Having lived in rural Saskatchewan and worked in a public library near three First Nation communities, I know how much rural citizens depend on the public library for internet access. The hot spot lending program is also critical because if the public libraries are not located on designated First Nation land, it is hard for people to get a ride to "town" to use the internet. Internet is about access to the world, to hope, to empowerment, to a future, among other things. All Canadians should have access. Public libraries are an essential part of levelling the playing field.


Posted on December 10, 2016 by Chantale Boileau

I agree, hot spot lending is so important.


 I agree with this Posted on December 10, 2016 by Chantale Boileau

Libraries are a great equalizer. They provide access to information for all. Canadians have the right to access the internet and wifi regardless of their economic situation. Rural communities that do not have the infrastructure or funds to support their citizen's needs for access to technology require our government's support. Libraries are our communities free technology and information hubs.


 I agree with this Posted on December 10, 2016 by mpf

Expanding connectivity in under-connected areas gives access to the larger social community and conversation and to the knowledge resources available via modern communications technologies. Having the option to participate (or not) in these conversations and knowledge resources is important if we want our remotest citizens to be feel fully connected to our society, interested in guiding it, and capable of working within it to achieve their dreams and goals. If that option isn't provided them, remote citizens will see society's trajectory moving away from them even as society rambles on about its favourite doctrines--equality, liberty, and justice--making all of us hypocrites.


 I have something to add Posted on December 11, 2016 by Susan Ferguson

When we refer to "small" libraries I think strong consideration needs to be made for geography where a population number is spread over an area not condensed in in centres.Recent SOLS connectivity funding was impacted where the population density didnt seem to be figured into the equation. I strongly support this initative as it can e integral in services we need to provide with budget however that can be frozen or reduced by municipality financial commitments.


 I agree with this Posted on December 11, 2016 by WBanks

Libraries can equalize access to information and self-directed education across the province, but only if they're adequately funded to do so.