Inner City Connect aims to bridge the digital divide by connecting local low-income residents to the Internet. This means providing 21st century learning tools to students, training and employment connections for caregivers and young people, and connection to the outside world to seniors and elders.
The City of Vancouver is internationally known as a digital pioneer, the home to digital start-ups and established businesses alike. It boasts a robust collection of higher education institutions and is seen as an international leader in digital innovation. The City is well poised to be a leader in the 21st century, technology-based economy.
Yet Vancouver is also home to a digital divide, a divide it is determined to erase. This divide primarily isolates low-income residents and families who too often can afford neither household computer equipment nor internet access. The problem is particularly acute in the inner city which houses a significant population of working poor and those living on government support. If these groups are to fulfill their aspirations to fully participate in the modern economy, they must first bridge the digital divide.
In 2015, a group of Our Place Downtown Eastside (DTES)/Strathcona organizations formed Inner City Connect to meet this challenge. Inner City Connect is a community-driven, place-based collective that advocates for, and takes action to increase, access to technological tools for inner-city, low-income residents. To that end, they developed two coordinated pilot projects to provide free WiFi and low- or no-cost hardware to local students and their families, and to members of the public in the Hastings corridor. The first pilot, led by the Ray-Cam Cooperative Centre and Strathcona Community Centre, continues to provide integral support for the area’s Graduation Strategy — a partnership of residents, community-based organizations, schools and service providers working collaboratively to support the growth, education and healthy development of children in Vancouver’s inner city. The second pilot, an open-access project in the Hastings corridor, was led by the DTES Street Market.
A future goal is to expand the offering to more family participants in the Graduation Strategy, other isolated area residents such as seniors aging in place, and across a wider geographic area in the inner city.
Inner City Connect received an initial grant from the City of Vancouver to fund these pilots and to enable the collection of valuable data that is directly relevant to numerous City of Vancouver policies.
Providing improved access to digital information and hardware to residents in our community directly supports policies in place at the City of Vancouver, particularly in the DTES Local Area Plan (2014), the Healthy City for All Strategy (2014), the City of Vancouver Digital Strategy (2013), and the Vancouver Economic Action Strategy (2011).