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DTES forum focuses on importance of digital access

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Digital DivideFeb. 27 - Access to technology, specifically the Internet, should be considered a civil right in Canada, argues Richard Marquez.

The Lookout Society’s Downtown Residential Manager was speaking at the Downtown Eastside Digital Access Forum Jan. 28 and explained how critical digital access was to those living in poverty or homelessness.

Internet access is essential to those looking for welfare and health benefits, opportunities for work, training and other resources. Going into a government office to fill out forms for benefits and information is a rarity, he says. Instead, it’s online where we interact with government.

In other example, Richard spoke about how some people living in DTES social housing may be separated from family. With use of a computer or digital device, Internet access and Skype, that individual can connect with loved ones and friends.

“Access to technology is systemically denied to people with low incomes and low educational attainment levels,” he says. “There are huge gaps for non-English speakers, aboriginal folks, seniors, racial minorities and people with disabilities.”

The forum, organized by the University of B.C. Learning Exchange and other neighbourhood groups, focussed on DTES technological needs and challenges, as well as opportunities and Innovation.

The UBC Learning Exchange produced a report based on the forum discussions that can be downloaded here.