Deloitte Canada report outlines solutions to achieve digital equity
Digital inequity impacts Canadians across various communities, age groups, and income levels
Toronto, November 23, 2022 – Many Canadians still face barriers to participating in the digital world. Based on original research, including a survey of Canadians and interviews conducted with industry and government leaders, ‘Digital equity: Focusing on every Canadian’s digital future’ is the second digital equity report released by Deloitte’s Future of Canada Centre.
Despite the progress that has been made, the report shows Canada is falling behind on digital equity with growing gaps in access to digital technology and skills development, as well as an increased threat to online privacy and well-being. The report reveals that age, ethnicity, income, and geographic location are among the foremost factors influencing digital equity for Canadians, impacting Canada’s ability to compete globally.
“The ability to use and access technology is now a requirement to fully participate in our society, yet many Canadians are being left behind in the wake of digital advancement,” says Anthony Viel, CEO, Deloitte Canada. “Whether it is the student who did not have a computer to use when their school went online, the senior who is not comfortable using digital technology, or the employer struggling to find talent—digital inequity affects us all. To overcome these challenges, public and private sectors must work collectively to improve digital skills training and lifelong learning, expand access, and bolster participation for all Canadians.”
Deloitte’s new report examines challenges to connectivity, digital literacy, and online safety. These challenges disproportionately impact Indigenous peoples, people in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, racialized communities, recent immigrants, people with disabilities, lower income households, seniors, and women.
Some of the survey findings include:
- 58 per cent of households surveyed report speeds above the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) minimum.1By comparison, only 39 per cent of households earning less than $40,000 per year met this threshold.
- Households earning less than $40,000 per year were twice as likely to cite the cost of devices as a barrier compared to those earning over $150,000 per year.
- Only 44 per cent of respondents under the age 35 feel their education prepared them to succeed in a digital economy.
- Roughly three in five respondents over the age of 75 express some level of frustration trying to use new technology.
- Nearly half (47%) of respondents say they did not know where to go to gain digital skills.
“The report makes clear, actionable recommendations to increase collaboration between governments, communities, and business leaders, to ensure every Canadian has access to the tools and digital training needed to participate fully and safely online,” says Georgina Black, Managing Partner, Government and Public Services at Deloitte Canada. “The recommendations in the report can be implemented today to build a more digitally equitable Canada now and into the future.”
Some of the recommendations include:
Expand underserved groups’ access to technology
- It’s particularly important to include Indigenous community providers in these consultations, to ensure their communities’ needs are met in a way that respects their right to self-determination.
- Programs that provide free, low-cost, or recycled devices must be designed in partnership with the communities they seek to help, including low-income individuals, newcomers to Canada, and Indigenous peoples.
- Without on-the-ground input from these communities, well-meaning efforts could overlook those most in need.
Standardize and support digital skills education
- Canadians need to know how to use technology safely and effectively and have the resources to improve their skills throughout their lifetime as the digital world continues to evolve.
- Standardizing digital skills education across Canada would help ensure consistent training is being offered nationally and allow for better responsiveness to technological change.
Ensure Canadians feel safe and protected online
- To help build online spaces that promote digital well-being and protect users from harm, governments across Canada can invest more in mental health supports, especially for young people, who are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of social media and internet use.
- Federal and provincial governments should work together to ensure Canadians have privacy rights in all aspects of their digital lives (such as commerce, health care, and employment).
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About The Future of Canada Centre
Deloitte Canada’s Future of Canada Centre facilitates an exploration of new ideas, viewpoints, and insights about our country’s most important national issues, with the aim of helping propel Canada into a new age of growth and competitiveness. It houses a team of Deloitte’s most innovative thinkers and experienced leaders, who conduct original research in their respective fields.
1 *Minimum broadband speeds are defined by the CRTC as at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads.