The digital divide has reached emergency status, experts say

Unequal access to the internet is a huge issue for many communities across the country – and the COVID-19 pandemic is only making it worse.

Why It Matters

The COVID-19 pandemic is requiring many essential services, from healthcare to education, to shift online. When communities don’t have equal internet access, they are effectively cut off. Digital inequity is a long-standing issue, but experts say it’s now an emergency.

A year ago, Canada’s digital divide lingered well below the radar of many charitable organizations and funders. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought it into sharp relief. Communities with little to no reliable internet or broadband access are effectively cut off from many of Canada’s workarounds to physical gatherings: essential services, online learning, and telehealth systems.

Much of this digital divide is between rural and remote communities and affluent urban neighbourhoods. Sometimes, conventional internet services are unaffordable for low-income residents. And in other cases, especially with Indigenous communities, there simply is no internet access to be had at any price. The effects of disconnection cascade. A lack of internet or high-speed access can cut off job applicants from searching for opportunities. It can make keeping in touch with distant friends or family

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