In July 2016, the United Nations declared access to the Internet to be a human right.
In today’s climate during the pandemic, it has become even clearer that access to Internet and technology can be a lifesaver for many around the world. A Usask college of medicine student took to determining why access to technology is important and what can be done to improve this access. Stay tuned to hear more about what was found.
What is more accessible with technology?
Health Services! Medicine has practices in place that assume patients have connections to technology to be able to reach and maintain contact with health services. These methods have become more important than ever during the pandemic.
Work/employment! Many job applications are now expected to be done online. This expecation has increased even more due to the pandemic where the application for employment process has mainly turned to technology for submitting applications, interviews, and training at a distance.
Physically distant commerce and essential services! Services such as ordering groceries become more difficult for our more vulnerable populations, such as our elderly, as these essential services become more reliant on technology. This riliance also became more evident during the pandemic.
Education! The move toward online learning for public education was and will continue to not be seamless as educators and governments grapple with issues around inequitable access to technology.
Social supports and safety planning! Many lose access to social supports without access to technology, despite already being in a vulnerable situation. During the pandemic, more ways to access social and safety supports was lost as places where everyone had access to some form of technology, such as libraries, were shut down.
Saskatoon’s Homeless Report Card in 2018 found that the most used resource by homeless populations throughout the year was libraries.
When these facilities inevitably close in times of crisis, our most vulnerable are left without access and often with no way to contact family.
What can be done to improve access to technology for everyone?
1. Implementation of blanket Wi-Fi starting in low-income/disadvantaged neighborhoods, with consideration of further expansion to other neighborhoods/downtown areas.
2. Implementation of Wi-Fi service on city transit to increase ease of use of transit services and ensure those moving around the city remain connected.
3. Consider how to improve access to devices.
4. What do we mean by access to technology? It isn’t just about devices – the city needs connection access for resources to be effeciently provided and utilized by all citizens.