Online is great, but….

When looking into how we can better provide services to Canadians, the discussion often turns to new tools — online collaborative tools, web 2.0, etc. A lot of great ideas that have shown great promise, both internal and external to Government. There’s the dirty little secret, though, when we think about these tools:

Not all Canadians are online.

It’s tough to comprehend that. For the younger among us, it’s hard to remember a time without the internet. For my little brother, for example, he can’t remember a time without high speed internet access. When we talk about engaging the public, or trying to find ways to include a broader group of Canadians in discussions on solutions to public policy issues, or stakeholder consultations, it can be difficult to try to be inclusive of everyone.

And yet, according to this survey, 1/5 Canadians does not have access to the internet in their home. Maybe they access the internet at school, or somewhere else, but given the reasoning for not having it (lack of interest/need at 59%, lack of confidence/knowledge/skills at 12%), it would seem to exclude these people from being included in any of the discussions happening online.

I know many departments do have alternative strategies for engaging these people, to try to be more inclusive. I’m curious as to what the most effective strategies are, and how that data is used alongside data collected through more ‘engaged’ means. What is the impact of the specific demographic that does not have internet access (46% of those with an income under $30,000)? How does this skew our online engagements?

This becomes even more interesting if we consider that part of the point of web 2.0 tools is to start a conversation with people on issues. How are these conversations happening with those who do not have access to these tools? Is their input only one-time and one-way?

A short post, I know — just wanted to point out the article.


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