Marita Moll

Telecommunities Canada | Victoria BC, Canada

Primary Contact

Secondary Contact

Marita Moll


Telecommunities Canada

Ensures that all Canadians are able to participate in community-based communications and electronic information services by promoting and supporting local community network initiatives.

Garth Graham. Cooperating community connections: a changing political reality. October 7, 2014.

Garth Graham. A dark mirror of Internet use.  July 11, 2014.  

Garth Graham. Taking Internet Governance Ecology At Its Word, June 10, 2014


 Garth Graham, Telecommunities Canada, March 12, 2014

(As part of the preparation for the At-Large Summit II (ATLAS II) in London, June 2014, Garth Bruen, chair of ICANN’s North American Regional At-Large Organization (NARALO) asked ALSs to come up with a concern or issue that was critical to them and that the Summit might address.)

In ALAC, what is the “reasonably relevant” balance between the “community” that an ALS represents (i.e. the users engagement level) and ICANN’s internal “communities.”  Or, to put that another way, what’s the push-pull in the identification of policy issues from the viewpoint of ICANN’s expectations and what’s in the “real” world?

Telecommunities Canada is concerned that the experience and practices of the individual Internet user are framed by a local context, but the discussion of the evolution of the Internet Governance ecosystem is largely framed by a context that is defined as global.  The community networks participating in Telecommunities Canada are well positioned to recognize a disconnection between global views and local views of Internet Governance.  Finding ways and means to act effectively in bridging that gap is a much more difficult problem.

In Canada, community-based agencies and local governments currently cannot recognize common self-interest in the phrase “Internet Governance.”  They don’t accept that they now have a responsibility to address how “the effective use of digital media involves learning and negotiating the policy processes, political economic parameters, and infrastructural actions that shape technologies.” (Regan Shade and Shepherd).  But then neither can agencies like ICANN or CIRA recognize how local issues of adapting the uses of the Internet for community development actually represent issues of governance.  Telecommunities Canada is challenged to find common ground for reframing debate on what are, in essence, issues of local Internet governance but not recognizable as such by either end of the global-local scale.

Telecommunities Canada exists to share the practices of community networking.  Those practices are evolving at the same rate as practices in other sectors of the digital economy. Untapped potential exists in sharing the changing practices and tools people are finding to move from using the Internet in the delivery of community-based services to consciously making the web of community work better.   This means that community networks are an essential part of the emerging spirit of local Do-It-Yourself (DIY).   The context created by that spirit is one where, more and more, the global is becoming defined as a federation of locals.

Community networks are usually not-for-profit ISPs, providing Internet access and training, and website and server hosting capacity, at low cost to the social services sector.   They focus their services towards the people who may find themselves excluded from full participation in the digital economy.  They work to increase community capacity for collaborative and low cost approaches to online services delivery.  In all activities, they plan for open shared learning among the participants and partners as a means of building DIY capacity for local stewardship of the uses of ICTs for community development.  They address digital inclusion through the use of computerized and publically accessible community networking systems that support all citizens in gaining the capacity to integrate the use of Internet comfortably into their lives.

From ICANN’s and ALAC’s perspective, the evolution in practices that Telecommunities Canada and its participating community networks anticipate could be described as preparing a community for ongoing participation in local conversations about Internet Governance.  But we know that using the phrase directly in negotiating local government policy processes will result in glazed eyeballs.  Whereas, engaging the community through hands on action to change practices of Internet use, in response to specific community collaborative needs, achieves the same end without reference to the language.  We also believe that the necessities of defending its mandate at the global level forces ICANN to define issues and agenda’s in its own terms, and in a way that pre-occupies ALACs attention.  From our perspective grounded in local use, this inhibits ALAC’s capacity to act as an effective channel for clear expressions emerging from its participants about the changing nature of Internet use or as an effective interpreter of what they mean.

In Industry Canada’s Community Access Program, “access” to ICTs was assumed to be individual.  CAP recognized there was a digital literacy component to access.  But it never fully acknowledged the degree to which digital inclusion strategies serve the needs of community development.  The definition of access is missing a critical element.  By what means can we enhance collective capacity for sharing platforms and infrastructure in using ICTs for local socio-economic development?  In a digital economy, we need to assume that access is also about a community’s capacity overall to control the uses of ICTs for community development, and to recognize that the resident systems and skills involved in acquiring that capacity are different.

There is a need to generate a new concept for a community network of the future, more in tune with the rapidly changing needs of our communities and the improvements they seek to achieve.  Some of the elements of that concept are coming into view.  There are signs that that this concept will parallel the rapid expansion of new collaborative models for the incubation of talents, businesses, and projects (Hubs, Maker Spaces, and Spark Labs,) in addition to the larger trend of people and organizations working together in open, shared spaces (co-working, hackathons, and models of commons-based peer production, open source software development and crowdsourcing), all models aimed at making better use of the resources and knowledge provided by ICT today.

In this future proofing of community networks, the traditional model of a community network, ICT public space or telecentre will evolve, transformed it into a laboratory of civic innovation and social inclusion that facilitates multi-sector participation and a more advanced, efficient and open use of ICT and mobile communication resources.  The most advanced community networks are becoming local development centers that make use of the capabilities of local experts and professionals, bringing together contents and resources to make the best possible use of the ICT and mobile communication technologies to improve and build new options of socioeconomic development.  They are gaining the means and the mandate to pilot the community network of the future, where the community collaborates, learns, experiments, and brings about innovation, ventures, services, contents and solutions in a dynamic, participatory, and expandable way.

Community networks believe that networking current ICT use and experimentation by individuals in the community can develop solutions and services better suited to people’s needs.  They are motivated to work constantly to find, create and share models, events, and more efficient platforms that make it possible for new advances in ICT use to be adopted by all sectors of their populations.  Changes in hands-on practices can illustrate what a community can do to increase its own effective development capacity in a digital economy. 

In spite of inhabiting a digital economy, Canada doesn’t recognize that it has potential community-oriented platforms that can capture and incubate experiences with innovation in the uses of ICTs for community development in a systematic way.  Acting to achieve these goals and implement these activities will create platforms for strategic association horizontally across communities that are open to any individuals with interests in the creation and development of opportunities through ICT use.  Lack of acknowledgement of that opportunity means provision of the additional resources allowing for the expansion and spreading of these practices to broader contexts is continuously blocked. 

What anyone can do in response to that recognition depends on where they are in the scale of things.  For a community network, gaining the resources, skills and recognition to attempt what are, in effect, changes in the mind of a community is a huge and complex task.  For an organization like Telecommunities Canada, gaining the resources, skills and recognition to share the practices being learned by community networks in making that attempt is a huge and complex task.  For an actor in the ecosystem of Internet Governance like ALAC to gain capacity to notice changes in the ordinary user’s patterns of Internet use, and to communicate what it hears so as to alter the ecosystem’s response is a huge and complex task.  For a nation state, to think that the global is becoming a federation of locals, thus altering the definition of governance, remains unthinkable.

In effect, it feels like we are all in a country of the blind where there are no one-eyed kings.  If we begin to see the global in the light of a federation of locals, is that enough to reframe the context of Internet Governance debate so that we move beyond where we are now – with nothing but overwhelming questions and circular arguments of insidious intent?

February 2011: Canada's Community Access Program (CAP)

  • CAP section Index
  • January 2008 - Canada's Community Access Program (CAP): Success Stories
  • TC and CAP: historical collaboration

    September 2010 - CRTC intervention

    TC supports CACTUS at CRTC

    Telecommunities Canada (www.tc.ca) intervention re: Broadcasting notice of consultation CRTC 210-623 -- Call for comments on contributions by broadcasting distribution undertakings to local expression. TC supports the renewed proposal by the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) to use the 0.5% of cable gross revenues that would become available under the CRTC's proposal in 2010-623 for the establishment of a Community-Access Media Fund to which independent non-profit community-run access channels could apply.  [RTF 19KB|http://www.tc.ca/CRTC-CACTUS-sept29.rtf]

    January 2010 - National Strategy for Digital Inclusion

    Updated January 19, 2010

  • Towards a National Strategy for Digital Inclusion[text 11KB|http://www.tc.ca/digital_inc4.txt]  [PDF 76KB|http://www.tc.ca/digital_inc4.pdf] |
  • No labels