01 May Bringing digital literacy programming to the most rural Canadians
According to Statistics Canada, in 2020 approximately six per cent of Canadians did not have access to the Internet at home. Out of these, 39 per cent cited cost (either Internet service or equipment) as the main reason why they didn’t have Internet.
Canadians pay some of the highest Internet and cell phone rates in the world, especially those in remote areas, where Internet can even be slow and spotty. Limited Internet access restricts people from taking full advantage of all the benefits an Internet connection offers, such as connecting with loved ones, accessing government forms and benefits, and reading up on educational and medical information. Oftentimes, many people in areas without reliable Internet are from Indigenous and rural communities that are already facing hardship.
In this day and age, the Internet is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. This is why in February 2022, the governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador announced an investment of up to $94 million to provide high-speed internet access to 36,000 homes and 350 rural, remote and Indigenous communities across Newfoundland and Labrador. The goal is to connect 98 per cent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to high-speed Internet by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.
Supporting rural communities with devices
Taking it one step further and recognizing that access to Internet is only half the battle, ABC Life Literacy Canada has recently launched a pilot project through its Activate Learning program to help bring free computers preloaded with ABC courses to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
Activate Learning is a literacy program focused on supporting and empowering the unique population of Newfoundland and Labrador. The program aims to improve the number of training opportunities for adult learners, employees and workplaces.
Through the pilot project, ABC has sent out more than 60 laptops to 12 literacy organizations across the entire province, including Labrador. Each laptop is set up with an offline version of ABC courses covering topics of employability and life skills, financial literacy and health literacy.
With 60 per cent of the population living in rural communities, the pilot project seeks to bring adult literacy programming to adult learners anywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador where Internet access may be limited, as well as to those who might have limited access to computers.
Putting it into action
The Murphy Centre is a non-profit organization headquartered in St. John’s and is one of the 12 organizations taking part in the pilot project.
The organization offers Adult Basic Education, GED, High School Credit and in-person literacy programming. Recently, they launched a new remote literacy program that aims to bring literacy training virtually to adults and seniors across the province, including rural areas.
“We’ve partnered with a select number of Newfoundland libraries who have existing technology and are located in areas where we could generate interest in the program,” says Julian Cruz, Remote Literacy Instructor at The Murphy Centre. “There can often be barriers to joining a remote program, especially for those with limited digital literacy skills, and so through our partnership with the libraries we’re able to provide a place where learners can go in person to access our virtual program.”
The Murphy Centre has distributed some of its laptops from the Activate Learning pilot project to these libraries to help facilitate their program.
“Having access to these devices has been helpful as we are a not-for-profit and don’t have big budgets. It’s been especially helpful to be able to provide some more technological support to the libraries by offering them devices. Libraries tend to have varying technology on site, so this makes it consistent and uniform for the learners.”
For more information about ABC Activate Learning, visit abcactivatelearning.ca.