Canadian Internet Forum: Digital Literacy Consultation Montréal, Québec November 16, 2010

This document captures the information from the opening reflection, the exercise of issue identification (sticky notes), the small group discussions on baskets of issues and the closing comments and reflection. Reflections on key questions Participants were asked to consider the question: “What could/should the future of the Internet in Canada be like?” 1. I believe it is important to focus on accessibility, analysis skills and writing: the information available online tends to be surface information. Young people act more quickly, but not necessarily better. In reality, sales of paper-based courses are on the rise: it is important not to think that an Internet education is privileged. 2. There is a gap that needs to be filled. Universities have to look after literacy and the ways in which young people master literacy. 3. The Internet is going to become increasingly personalized. Also, we shouldn’t delude ourselves about the skills of the "younger" generation and the "older" generation. After all, the "older" generation created the Internet. 4. I am primarily concerned about illiteracy. Since 1952, we have been a generation of the “spoken word.” With the Internet, this generation and future generations are generations of the “written word.” It is important to deal with illiteracy since it is the foundation of all literacy, including digital literacy. Writing is now the basic skill. Over the last century, people in the secondary sector (like metallurgy) could be illiterate but still function with a good salary. This is no longer true today. This is leading to the disappearance of the secondary sector. We are changing how we communicate. There are delays: the school system must take a more longterm approach. 5. Libraries have been crusading for digital skills for years. Language quality is also at stake. 6. We cannot discuss literacy without putting it into context. A good understanding of media, the Web, all of this post-modern hodgepodge, is important. Technology is a framework that opens and closes. The issues in terms of data, access to information and open data, are keys for defining the future of the Internet. Cultural diversity is also very important and we must not foster American hegemony. There are few Internet leaders in Canada. World languages are at risk. The key is to develop critical thinking. The Internet is a doorway, not an end in itself. 7. It is still necessary to educate and help teach. The Internet is used for research and communication. Wikis open doors.

Small group sessions - Issue Identification Process The individual sticky note brainstorm session generated a lot of data. The sorting exercise was done at a fairly broad level with five baskets of issues identified: governance, access, content and culture, technology and skills. In the small-group discussions, however, conversation tended to be more free-form and so comments are organized by group rather than by topic.

1.0 Skills/content and culture
1.1 Themes addressed: Yesterday and today; illiteracy; training; learning difficulties; creation; content on the Internet; Americanization; lack of a regulatory body; tax credits. 1.2 Some ideas: • • • • • • • • • • • • Classical literature once conditioned thoughts, critical thinking. How do we offer this type of training to today’s young people? There have always been young people who have had learning difficulties. ICTs could help them more than more traditional teaching methods. The level of digital literacy is fairly low overall, especially in terms of content creation. Literacy is important for governments. We must go beyond learning how to simply use it. We must avoid “technological fetishism.” Critical thinking is also important. It is also important to recognize that not everyone will be a creator in terms of ICTs. Change has already occurred in the educational context. Five years ago, future teachers were not very interested in ICTs. They are much more interested today. Internet content is largely American. There is the CRTC for TV and radio. Why are there no regulations for the Internet? Too often, the Internet is seen as the Wild West. Leadership is needed for content if we want to avoid being crushed by the United States. The thinking about how to proceed on copyright is out of date, limiting, productivityhindering. We must change our thinking about copyright. Nothing has changed in regulations over the past 10 years. We must sound the alarm if we wish to generate Canadian content.

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Why not provide tax credits to people purchasing technological tools? This would encourage national support for ICTs. Large associations should encourage change instead of resistance.

2.0 Access/Technology/Governance
2.1 Themes addressed: The importance of Internet access; opportunities that accompany access in general, especially rural and Northern access; the opportunity to use technological tools (like top-level domains and search engines) to protect marginalized languages and cultures. 2.2 Some ideas: • • • • • • • • • • Accessibility for all – regions where this is more difficult (rural) – free national WiFi? (done in Germany) – consider it a public utility, like electricity. Question of cost – how do we overcome this at the individual level? Quebec access program for disadvantaged families – enable increased access – access and equipment included. Telemedicine – lack of infrastructure – Gaspésie and other regions – low-bandwidth hindering the spread of accessibility. Research group at McGill is studying telemedicine in Northern Canada. Telemedicine is more cost-effective than sending physicians. Experiment in France on legal proceedings on the Internet (Saint-Pierre and Miquelon) – very expensive to send judges north. Talk about opportunities as well as barriers. Federal, provincial and municipal governments – all must play a role. CRTC legislates telecommunications, imposes qualifications on telecommunications – supposedly autonomous from the government – can take a leadership on access – ask telecommunications to “guarantee a minimum of access.” Government and the private sector must coordinate their efforts. “Governance” is ironic – the Conservative government required the heads of all government agencies (NFB, etc.) to display their costs/expenses on their websites (but

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not the Ministries) – transparency in governance. We cannot impose transparency on private companies. • • • Access could be a loss leader; profits will come from high-speed Internet. The government’s role could be to guarantee a certain level of access. Tri-Council Policy: federal research funding groups, which must make it mandatory for universities to make their data and research public, which helps advance science and technology much more rapidly. Copyright is a notion that is in the process of disappearing. The government should focus on this – what is protected by copyright? – it must be clear. Protectionism: libraries in Quebec must purchase their books from a bookstore. Bookstores want e-books to go through them. Protection of the French language: can it be found on the Internet? Very difficult once we are in an international forum. Germans and Italians like communicating in English. Scientific conference in Paris asked participants to speak in English – publishing in English guarantees a much wider readership – many at-risk languages could be promoted with the Internet, but English is the universal language. Technology can promote a language or a region – “.québec” – to protect the French language. The Office de la langue française won awards for translating technical terms into French. X believes that ICANN will approve “.québec.” The idea is to enable search engines to promote all of the most relevant results for people in Quebec. “.québec” is not governmental, but a non-profit organization. Can we apply old ideas of governance to Internet governance? Governance works now, but for whom? Internet must be seen as an essential service, like the mail. “Homeless Nation” – gives homeless people an address and an identity through the Internet. Finland declared the Internet to be a human right. Barrier: who will intervene? It is often private industry, which has its own intentions. How can the government and other sectors intervene more quickly?

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Africans have cell phones but do not use the Internet very much. Cell phones generate an economy and wealth.

Plenary session Who should be included in this consultation that is not here today? What other sectors/stakeholders should be involved? • • • Companies should play a more predominant role in access to ICTs. This consultation does not really reflect the Canadian reality: for example, visible minorities and young people are absent. In order for these consultations to have a genuine impact and raise the level of discussion, we must request the input of Internet leaders in the country – find 20 influential bloggers, e.g. Michael Geist. And launch the discussion online. The Réseau des producteurs multimédia and Alliance numérique are absent.

How might CIGF serve to help advance the issues? • • • • • • • • We must help average citizens find a way to authenticate content. For future consultations, it would be important to narrow down questioning – a single objective would be easier to manage. We must target subgroups – large groups aren’t efficient. SODEC is carrying out a similar consultation in Quebec. It is important to listen to visible minorities, immigrants, people who do not have access to ICTs. It will be tricky to try to build communities from scratch, but many people already belong to communities. Fewer questions – a single objective. Participants must speak to their own networks.

Other points raised in the plenary session • Idea of a tax exemption on Internet costs.

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Who must intervene? Government, culture/media industries, large unions. How can we help people evaluate website content? – Refer to international standards. How do we support the consultations?

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