On October 23-24, Canadians will add their voices to the global conversation on the future of the Internet by joining the We, The Internet Dialogue. Part of the global process that has already brought together more than 2,500 people in more than 60 countries, the virtual Dialogue will give Canadians an opportunity to participate, share their views, and contribute to decision-making that will shape the digital future. The SecDev Foundation’s Deputy Director Kevin Dunbar explains why Canadians need to talk about the future of the Internet.
COVID-19 related lockdowns have accelerated the global digital transformation, driving a rapid shift to working, education, and accessing services online from home. This shift has also highlighted the crucial importance that access to the Internet plays in basic socio-economic inclusion.
Still, Internet access and usage remains incredibly unequal: half of the world’s population does not have access to the Internet. This has an impact between and within countries, where the gendered gap in access to the Internet results in disparity between men and women in their labor force participation, wages, and access to financial services.
Canada echoes many of these inequalities. While 85% of Canadians have access to broadband Internet, only 40% of those in rural communities have adequate access to fast, reliable Internet. The Internet has driven innovation, connectivity, and the sharing of information and ideas at a scale unimaginable to previous generations. Inclusion or not on this wave of transformation has a direct impact on our opportunities in life.
Everything we do online leaves a trail, and companies are connecting and weaving those dots together to create extensive profiles of us: who we are, our political beliefs, our interests, our habits, and how we engage with the various digital services we use every day. High-profile cases like Cambridge Analytica have made us far more aware of how our data is being used to target advertisements and influence our behaviour.
This has made us increasingly aware of the need to protect ourselves online. Apps and services that protect our privacy and give us control over our data are increasingly popular with young people. Tools like password managers and two-factor authentication are becoming more common.
The Internet is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in our lives; it is no longer possible to think of the Internet as a virtual place, distinct from real life. Actions online have real world consequences, as wide reaching as influencing an election or galvanizing protest movements.
The Internet has connected people with an immense and rapidly growing amount of knowledge and ideas. But can we trust what we read online? While fake news is as old as human communication, the Internet has amplified this phenomenon exponentially, enabling deep fake videos and disinformation to spread across the globe. How we tackle this and retain trust online is crucial to a continued positive impact on society.
Canada has always been a very strong and engaged democracy, and Canadians have engaged regularly in shaping how their country and lives are governed. Citizenship is now increasingly going online. As a Canadian citizen and a Digital citizen, it is important to be actively involved and get your voice heard on the future of the Internet. Join the upcoming Citizens Dialogue on the Future of the Internet on October 23-24 to have your voice included!