Vulnerable residents in Vancouver’s inner city need Wi-Fi access NOW
Addressing the digital divide must be integral to the Covid-19 response efforts of all orders of government.
The Our Place coalition of community partners is calling on the City of Vancouver, and the Federal and Provincial Governments to take immediate steps to provide free, open internet access to vulnerable residents in Vancouver’s inner city. This means targeting residents and households, such as those in social and affordable housing, that have limited access to a reliable internet connection.
We further urge Council, Provincial and Federal partners and their staff to ensure that those most in need have the technology required to access supports and resources throughout the Covid-19 crisis that are primarily, if not solely available online.
Our Place Calls to Action:
1. Immediately install Wi-Fi at key inner city affordable and social housing complexes at least for the duration of the Covid-19 Crisis, if not permanently. For example, MacLean Park, Stamps Place, UGM, Vancouver Native Housing, and Grandview Terrace.
2. In areas where there is a high density of low-income households, with individuals unable to afford Wi-Fi access, consider use of subsidies and compile other options that can accommodate families, students and other low-income residents to access services at least for the duration of the Covid-19 Crisis, if not permanently eg. short-term: Telus $10/month broadband for low-income families; long-term: expand existing public programs like ‘Connecting Families’.
3. Work with VSB, housing providers, inner city community centres and other service agencies to develop an information sharing system to enable identification of major gaps in service and an initial database of households requiring individualized internet/tech support.
4. Implement a model similar to the Emergency Food Distribution Centres to further outreach to individuals and families to determine their particular needs, and develop a strategy to acquire, distribute and install computers/tablets etc and broadband internet where needed. This could include the same initial partners and an ongoing referral system as well as tech support and procurement strategy (eg. refurbished devices, or for Indigenous learners, access to Jordan’s Principle funding).
5. Ensure the City of Vancouver website is an easy to navigate, one-stop shop for users of all levels of experience and literacy to access timely, relevant information and resources related to the Covid-19 Crisis in multiple languages.