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Soo Min Kim, Katie Gilfillan, Jordana Saab-Brault, and Monica Trott

Left out of the Conversation: The Digital Divide and #IdleNoMore

Karissa Donkin, in a Toronto Star article published January 11th, discusses the rapid spread of the #IdleNoMore movement through social media. She explains, “...anyone — no matter how physically isolated they are — can participate in discussion and follow news if they have an Internet connection or smartphone.” That’s how we became aware of this issue - as students constantly plugged into social media sites, #IdleNoMore was very accessible to us. Which got us thinking, which voices were strongest in Idle No More, and which voices were being excluded?When it comes to Aboriginals in Canada, there is a significant percentage who do not have sufficient broadband connections. According to Statistics Canada, three-quarters of Aboriginal Internet users live in urban centres, where broadband infrastructure is widespread and relatively accessible. However, about half of the Aboriginal population continues to reside in rural and remote communities, where this infrastructure is generally non-existent. Given the breadth of #IdleNoMore, media representations of the movement have made the easy assumption that Aboriginals are now just as connected to the Internet as the rest of Canadians. This assumption overlooks the digital divide that continues to exist in rural and remote Aboriginal communities. The affordability and quality of access, as well as the capacity of Aboriginals to effectively engage with technology, continue to be major challenges in these marginalized communities. Aboriginal access to broadband networks needs to be improved through Canadian Federal Government action in order to allow active and equal participation of Aboriginal communities in the Canadian civil sphere.            In rural and remote Aboriginal communities, the cost of broadband access is often prohibitive, as corporate service providers are less likely to develop networks in expensive-to-service areas. Rural and remote Aboriginal communities tend to pay more for services, yet have less access to broadband. For Bell DSL Internet service… Read More