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September 21 and 22
2 days, 2 disciplines, 2 ways to participate – defining our professional roles and uniting to build more equitable, accessible and inspired communities.
How often do planners think about the digital realm in the context of community connectivity?
Internet access, once a rare opportunity, is today a core indicator of liveability: people rely on it every day for multiple tasks including online banking, working, learning, receiving health care and government services. The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly emphasized the intersection of liveability and digital connectivity, with most Canadians now being digitally dependent in unprecedented ways: home internet and internet-enabled devices make it possible for families to isolate or quarantine; to reduce their contacts and risk of illness; to remain connected to family, friends, school and government services; and to conduct work. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has also emphasized the digital divide that separates those that do have access to the internet from those that don't. A recent study of the digital divide in Toronto indicates that 60% of persons who do not have access to home internet say this is impacting their ability to access critical services and information. Other studies have shown that many low-income Canadians can afford to pay for broadband service only if they sacrifice other necessities, such as food, clothing, and healthcare.
Participants of this session will learn about the short- and long-term measures that Canada's largest City is taking to address the digital divide, and improve liveability and digital connectivity. Short-term measures include the "Wi-Fi on Wheels" initiative, bringing temporary internet access into public parks; and the "Digital Canopy" initiative, bringing free Wi-Fi to residents in 25 apartment neighbourhood towers. Long-term measures include the "ConnectTO" program, an initiative to leverage the municipal fibre network to deliver affordable high-speed broadband to vulnerable residents; and the development of a Digital Equity Policy, which is aimed at ensuring communities are connected – not divided – by technology.