This paper outlines the importance of digital equity, the urgent need for a digital equity strategy, and the actions stakeholders must take to realize digital inclusion across the province. Understanding the role that each level of government must play to accomplish this will help clarify our calls to action and formulate the needs communities and community‐based organizations must advocate for.
Digital Equity – a state where people can readily and effectively access and use technology to participate in our society – is intricately bound to Health Equity.
"We understand health equity to be an approach that includes policies and interventions that address discrimination and oppression with a goal of eradicating social inequality and disadvantage for the purpose of reducing differences in health outcomes." The Alliance for Healthier Communities, Health Equity Charter
Two things in particular have highlighted this fact: the extraordinary and unprecedented growth of information technology over the past decade, and the restrictions placed on in‐person access to healthcare providers because of the COVID‐19 pandemic. It will take the combined efforts through a Collective Impact approach of all three levels of government working closely with communities, private sector and community‐based organizations to “bridge the digital divide.” Collective impact is a form of collaboration which brings together different sectors to solve large complex problems. Private sector corporations like TELUS, Bell and Rogers will all have to play a significant part to make this possible.
Numerous groups do not currently share the benefits of participating fully in the digital world. These include racial and ethnic minorities, elderly populations, indigenous groups, low‐income individuals and those living with disabilities. Although it is a lofty goal, digital equity is attainable – with your assistance. In doing the research for this paper, we found that many organizations, like the Toronto Public Library and ACORN Canada are already strongly articulating the need to bridge the digital equity divide. What is required is a core strategy that will serve as a vanguard to the critical work that must be done to ensure no one is excluded.
The federal government plays a strategic role in recognizing the need for all citizens to have reliable access to the Internet. This is increasingly necessary for everyday activities such as accessing health care, education and government services; purchasing food and other necessities; and connecting with one’s family and community.
The provincial government can support the federal position by leveraging cost‐effective ways to close the gap. This includes access to reduced priced Internet service for low income individuals/families and low cost options for hardware such as cell phones or tablets.
Local governments can support communities by looking for unique and creative ways to provide access to the Internet, re‐use existing technology and training individuals on how to participate in the digital world.
Local communities, non‐governmental organizations and groups can provide opportunities for outreach, education and support.
Corporate organizations, particularly telecommunications companies, can provide devices and access to the Internet.
This paper recognizes the Alliance for Healthier Communities evidence‐informed Model of Health and Wellbeing (MHWB) which guides the delivery of primary health care. The MHWB champions transformative change for people and communities facing barriers to health. Furthermore it recognizes that digital equity is a significant enabler of a Learning Health System.Digital Equity Call to Action - Bridging the Digital Divide (2020)