Information and Communication Technologies Implications for Social and Economic Development

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Halder, Wilson
This presentation examines issues surrounding broadband based ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) and the implications for the role of the government, the private sector, the community and academia in supporting the utilization of broadband (internet connectivity) for social and economic development. The study being presented aims to identify key topic areas and questions for further collaborative research and to inform government policy development for an accessible and ubiquitous broadband infrastructure across both urban and rural regions. Living in the society of the Information Age, connectivity has become as vital as hydro, electricity and the roads and bridges that we move on. Moving forward, it will be imperative for the development of a robust but ubiquitous network broadband infrastructure that will allow citizens equal opportunities to broadband that is affordable in order to participate in the digital economy and to improve their livelihoods. The Canadian government’s vision of a “Connected Canada” established in 1999 has been at best subtle rather than impressive where the country’s rural areas tend to have far lower internet use at a household level due to factors such as an older population and lower educational attainment. However such generalization is weak within the context of southwestern Ontario where rural areas have no broadband access while others are still dependent on dial-up telephone modems or slow speed ADSL with major price differences between wired and fixed wireless or satellite coverage. This presentation focuses on rural connectivity for southwestern Ontario by looking at healthcare and agricultural farm families’ ability to innovate, network and communicate through broadband use. Topics that will be explored will include the impact of healthcare through broadband (eHealth), how agricultural farm families are influenced by broadband, investment allocations for a sustainable telecommunications infrastructure and the “digital divide” that pervades Canada’s urban and rural areas. The variables being presented for this study are: affordability, accessibility, usability and value of broadband tools for agriculture and rural healthcare.
Anthropology, Development & Economics - Panel