CIRA Report Finds Internet Infrastructure, Digital Literacy and Economic Development Key to Canada’s Future

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) released a report on the findings from its national consultation on how the Internet is run. The report found that it was important for Canada to develop world class internet infrastructure and that the linkages between the development and deployment of the internet, along with economic development and digital literacy are major issues of public interest in Canada.The report judged the Canadian Internet Forum a success, meeting its objectives and demonstrating that value that can be added to internet governance processes by a public forum that provides a space where internet stakeholders can meet to discuss and debate the public interest in the Internet outside the confines of established institutional structures, with the aim of building consensus on key issues as an input to decision-making in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.The Forum was a national consultation hosted by CIRA, the manager of Canada’s .CA domain name registry, along with its partners the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the Media Awareness Network (MNet). It consisted of face-to-face consultations that took place across Canada along with input received from an online discussion forum, and culminated at a national event held in Ottawa and webcast across the country in February 2011.The consultations were broadly themed under two topics: the digital economy and digital literacy, and Canadians identified numerous issues that are important to them. These issues included online safety and security, the development of a ‘Canadian vision’ for the Internet and the cost and speed of broadband.The report said that “unlike the centrally managed and regulated telecommunications and broadcasting networks that preceded it, the Internet was built bottom-up as an open network of networks, designed to maximise opportunities for users to access, create and exchange information and minimise controls on their activities.CIRA President and CEO Byron Holland suggested in the report “that as the complexity of internet governance increases, there a need for a public forum that engages all stakeholders and provides a comprehensive, balanced view of the public interest in the development and use of the internet as an input to government policy-makers and regulators, other public authorities, and decision-makers throughout Canada’s economy and society.”Holland warned that centralised, top-down control of the internet — the alternative to maintaining and enhancing the distributed, bottom-up, consensus-driven internet governance model so that it is able to cope with increasing complexity risks sub-optimising the role the Internet can play in Canada’s future.”The raising of digital literacy and economic development were two key messages found by participants, and that these were tightly interconnected, and that the public discourse surrounding them needs to be reframed and rebalanced to put greater emphasis on digital literacy — a task for which a public forum like the Forum is well-suited.”The report also found that in addition to recognising the close connections between economic development and digital literacy, the [Forum] process identified a number of fundamental internet governance challenges that must be addressed to enable the creation of a virtuous circle between them. These challenges include:

  • Achieving universal and affordable access to world-class internet infrastructure and services.
  • Equipping Canadians with the knowledge and skills they need to participate and prosper in the digital economy and global information society.
  • Ensuring a stable and secure online environment for individuals and organisations in the private and public sectors, through effective management of critical internet resources and protecting the privacy and other rights of Internet users.
  • Promoting Internet-enabled innovation in business, government, education, and health care.
  • Promoting digital inclusion of all communities and segments of the Canadian population.

To achieve all this, the Forum found that access to affordable world-class internet infrastructure and services in all areas of Canada would be required, something that is being addressed by all levels of government within Canada even though services available to Canadians lag behind those in some other countries.The report will be presented to the United Nations coordinated Internet Governance Forum (www.intgovforum.org), a venue for nations to discuss the future of the Internet.The report is available to download in full at www.scribd.com/doc/54601955.