Connecting Canadians
520 pages, 6 x 9
12 figures
Release Date:01 Jun 2012

Connecting Canadians

Investigations in Community Informatics

Athabasca University Press

In the 1990s, the federal government began to promote a new vision of Canada as a knowledge-based economy. Fundamental to participation in such an economy is technology—specifically, information and communications technologies, which serve to link individuals to the digital network on which activities of production and consumption have increasingly come to depend. At least for a time, emphasis was accordingly placed on achieving a “connected Canada,” one in which all citizens, including those living in rural and remote communities, would have access to the Internet. The result was a flurry of government-funded initiatives and programs designed to bring broadband to unserved, or underserved, areas and to impart needed computer skills.

The outcome of a major research initiative, Connecting Canadians examines the role of community informatics, or community-based ICT initiatives, in this process of transition. The Community Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking (CRACIN) set out to study how civil society groups—in locations ranging from Vancouver to Labrador and from remote Northern communities to Toronto and Montréal—sought to enable local communities to develop on their own terms within the broader context of federal and provincial policies and programs. Drawing on diverse theoretical perspectives, from sociology to library and information sciences to women’s studies, the essays not only document specific local initiatives but analyze the overall trajectory of the government’s vision of a digitally inclusive Canada. The lessons learned in the course of this comprehensive research offer valuable guidance to community groups, NGOs, and others in the private sector, but they are also of critical importance to those who presently shape public policy.
Andrew Clement is a professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, with a status appointment in the Department of Computer Science. Michael Gurstein is the director of the Center for Community Informatics Research, Training, and Development in Vancouver. Graham Longford has been a research fellow and coinvestigator for CRACIN and the Community Wireless Infrastructure Research Project. Marita Moll is a lecturer at Carleton University and a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Leslie Regan Shade is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University.

List of Illustrations



1 Connecting Canadians? Community Informatics Perspectives on Community Networking Initiatives / Graham Longford, Andrew Clement, Michael Gurstein, Leslie Regan Shade


Part I Context

2 Toward a Conceptual Framework for a Community Informatics  / Michael Gurstein

3 Keeping in Touch: A Snapshot of Canadian Community Networks and Their Users — Report on the CRACIN Survey of Community Network Users / Marita Moll, Melissa Fritz

4 Canadian and US Broadband Policies: A Comparative Analysis / Heather E. Hudson


Part II Conceptual Frameworks

5 Information Technology as Political Catalyst: From Technological Innovation to the Promotion of Social Change / Serge Proulx

6 “The Researcher Is a Girl”: Tales of Bringing Feminist Labour Perspectives into Community Informatics Practice and Evaluation / Katrina Peddle, Alison Powell, Leslie Regan Shade

7 What Are Community Networks an Example Of? A Response I / Christian Sandvig


Part III Community Innovation I: Participation and Inclusion

8 Systems Development in a Community-Based Organization: Lessons from the St. Christopher House Community Learning Network / Susan MacDonald, Andrew Clement

9 Vancouver Community Network as a Site of Digital and Social Inclusion / Diane Dechief


Part IV Community Innovation II: Wireless Networking

10 Community and Municipal Wi-Fi Initiatives in Canada: Evolutions in Community Participation I / Alison Powell, Leslie Regan Shade

11 Wi-Fi Publics: Defining Community and Technology at Montréal’s Île Sans Fil / Alison Powell

12 Wireless Broadband from Individual Backhaul to Community Service: Co-operative Provision and Related Models of Local Signal Access / Matthew Wong


Part V Rural and Remote Broadband

13 “We Were on the Outside Looking In”: — A First Nations Online Social Environment in Northern Ontario / Brandi L. Bell, Philipp Budka, Adam Fiser

14 A Historical Account of the Kuh-ke-nah Network: Broadband Deployment in a Remote Canadian Aboriginal Telecommunications Context / Adam Fiser, Andrew Clement

15 Atlantic Canadian Community Informatics: The Case of the WVDA and SmartLabrador / Katrina Peddle

16 Reverse English: Strategies of the Keewatin Career Development Corporation in Discourse Surrounding the Knowledge-Based Economy and Society / Frank Winter


Part VI Libraries and Community Networks

17 Community Networks and Local Libraries: Strengthening Ties with Communities / Nadia Caidi, Susan MacDonald, Elise Chien

18 The Library Ideal and the Community Network: Prospects for New Technologies in the Public Library I / Marco Adria


Part VII Public Policy

19 Community Networking Experiences with Government Funding Programs Service Delivery Model or Sustainable Social Innovation? / Susan MacDonald, Graham Longford, Andrew Clement

20 Communautique: Action and Advocacy for Universal Digital Access / Nicolas Lecomte, Serge Proulx

21 There and Back to the Future Again: Community Networks and Telecom Policy Reform in Canada, 1995–2010 / Graham Longford, Marita Moll, Leslie Regan Shade


Appendix A: Community Partners and Case Study Sites / Graham Longford

Appendix B: A Brief History of the Community Access Program: From Community Economic Development to Social Cohesion to Digital Divide / Marita Moll

Appendix C: The Federal Connecting Canadians Initiative, 1995–2007: A Brief Overview / Graham Longford, Marita Moll



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