Digital literacy is something that is becoming more and more important worldwide, and Canada is not excluded from the list. Simply put, digital literacy is when an individual has the ability to use digital devices and the corresponding resources to find, understand, and use information. It also involves using these digital methods to create information of their own. Essentially, it is about having access to digital devices as well as having the knowledge of how to use them. It may seem that today almost everyone is well versed in how to use technology. Let’s take a look at how Canada measures up:
Access to Networks in Canada
Almost a decade ago, Canada was lagging compared to its global counterparts in terms of internet access. However, in the recent years, the country has caught up and even surpassed many other nations across the world. In fact, according to a poll in 2013, Canada was ranked the 16th most wired country in the world. There are close to a 30 million internet users in the country. This roughly amounts to about 87 percent of the Canadian households having access to the internet.
The internet is not the only way that Canadians have more access to technology, however. It was assessed in 2015 that 68 percent of Canadians have access to a smartphone. This number had sharply risen in just a year. What was quite discerning, however, were the age groups that stood out during this survey. Instead of teenagers taking the lead, it was found that individuals aged between 25 and 54 were most likely to own a smartphone, particularly a new one. This meant that there was a wider range of ages being included in the tech savvy field.
Digital natives is yet another term that was coined to deal with the influx of technology, particularly among the younger generation. A digital native is someone who has grown up with technology for most, if not all, of their life. This is something that we are beginning to see with the current generation. It is likely that children under the age of five are unaware of what it is like to grow up without the internet.
This is not where the term begins and ends, nonetheless. It also looks at just how well these children, particularly Canadian kids, are capable of exhibiting digital literacy. For the most part, it has been found that students across the board have become quite skilled at using the internet to find information. Canadian students have even become quite adept at authenticating these sources, although this is primarily done for educational purposes alone. Finally, students, thanks to social media, have shown some talent at creating material of their own.
Still, there is a great deal more work to be done, particularly in the education system. Children need to be trained to use technology better and more effectively. Furthermore, they should also be groomed to develop helpful skills and strategies of their own. This is something that needs to be improved in order for children to be truly considered digital natives.
The Digital Divide in Canada
First of all, it has been proven that those with a higher incomes are more likely to have internet in their homes than those with lower incomes. For individuals in the higher earning categories, 95 percent of the homes have access to internet. For those who earn less, this number drops down sharply to around 62 percent.
This trend can also be seen when surveying urban and rural areas – rural areas are almost 15 percent less likely to have access to the internet. Furthermore, there is also a discrepancy between regions within Canada. Alberta and British Columbia are more likely to have internet access than Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.
Aboriginal populations face a similar problem. They may have less of a chance for having access to the necessary technology. They are also less likely to have the educational facilities to learn about technology as well. It was estimated that only about 7 percent of the aboriginal communities in BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Nunavut had access to high-speed internet.
Another segment where the digital divide exists is within age groups. Those who are younger, particularly up to the age of 25 are more likely to be well versed in technology, as you can imagine. However, for individuals over the age of 65, there is a sharp downturn indicating that there is very little education regarding these matters for the elderly.
All of this shows that Canada has come a long way in terms of digital literacy. Nevertheless, the region still has a long way more to go to be considered truly digitally literate as a nation.