Ontario Digital Inclusion Summit

Yesterday I spoke at the Ontario Digital Inclusion Summit in Toronto about the Rigolet-led eNuk health and environment monitoring program that I’ve had the privilege and honour of working on for the last few years. In particular, I spoke about how mobile mesh networks could work to improve connectivity and narrow the digital divide that separates a significant portion of our population from access to online resources.

For many Canadians, access to the internet – like many of our essential services – becomes a priority only when we are made aware of our dependency on it. Much like clean water that flows on demand, or the ability to keep food refrigerated, these moments of awareness of our essential services tend to occur when a system fails, or when we are exposed to regions of the world where these things fall outside the scope of take for granted services.

Sadly, when it comes to digital services (and despite the recognition in 2016 that broadband internet is a fundamental right of all Canadians), we don’t have to travel beyond our own borders to find areas where internet access is non-existent or lacking significantly. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this digital divide has consequences that go far beyond the inability to curate a life on Instagram. Many people, particularly in Indigenous communities and remote locations in the north, are not granted equal and equitable access. And what access they might be provided through the one or two (if they are lucky) internet service providers is slow, inconsistent, and with limited bandwidth. Furthermore, access is further restricted because the costs per data download are astronomical (compared with most of the rest of Canada).

This is where RightMesh.io and their wireless mobile mesh network platform becomes important. We have the opportunity to narrow the digital divide by providing northern communities with a mobile mesh network that permits them to share their own data through eNuk and other mobile apps. We have the opportunity to narrow the digital divide by providing northern communities with the ability to send messages and connect in ways that they’ve never been able to do before. We have the opportunity – and more importantly – the responsibility to ensure that every Canadian is granted the opportunities to participate.

Thank you to the organizers of the Ontario Digital Inclusion Summit for giving me time to speak about this research and the need to build infrastructure that includes all Canadians. And thank you to the brilliant and inspiring speakers and attendees who took time this weekend to build a better more inclusive Canada. There is much work to be done, but it’s good to know that we’ve begun the journey.

If you were interested and wanted to see my presentation, you can find it in the video below. My talk begins around the 8:20 mark of the video, with a question and answer period afterwards. However, I highly recommend that you watch the first 8 minutes so that you can hear the words and advice of Elder Blu Waters.

 

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