An ongoing issue is the digital divide, a serious gap in internet service experienced by communities across Canada—especially Indigenous communities or those in rural or northern areas. With many aspects of life and work shifted online because of the pandemic, a lack of access to reliable high-speed internet or the knowledge of how to use the internet safely can isolate communities from participating in our digital society.
To do our part in tackling Canada’s internet challenges, each year CIRA awards funding of up to $100,000 per grant to community-led internet projects. CIRA is one of the few non-government grant makers of this kind. We are proud to be a leader in addressing this digital divide and empowering underserved communities, charities, and non-profits through our grants program.
You can read more about CIRA grants, eligibility, and the application process on our website. Now in its tenth year, the CIRA grants program has funded 201 projects with a total of $10.45 million.
What’s new? Funding areas
We’ve updated our funding areas for 2023, so if your organization or community has a great internet project in mind that will address a digital challenge facing Canadians, make sure you understand the types of projects we are looking for. For 2023, CIRA is accepting applications for funding in three key areas: Infrastructure, Online Safety, and Policy Engagement. We’re especially looking for initiatives that benefit northern, rural, and Indigenous communities, and/or students K-12 or post-secondary.
With improved connectivity comes greater economic opportunity, and that’s one reason we are keen on Infrastructure projects. Last year we were proud to award a grant to the Takla Landing Connectivity Project in BC to connect the remainder of Takla Landing homes and buildings to existing coaxial community lines. Funding from a CIRA grant set in place the infrastructure needed for future growth and development in Takla Landing, like maximizing their tourism industry. CIRA funds Infrastructure projects like this and other community-led connectivity research, network planning and solutions to help contribute to long-term community development.
We also fund research, educational frameworks, tools, consultations, and training programs that increase Canadians’ Online Safety. We want more Canadians to know how to use the internet confidently and safely and with the ability to protect themselves against online threats like misinformation, privacy intrusion and surveillance, harassment, cyberbullying, and gender-based violence. In 2021, we funded the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) to develop teaching resources for students and educators around smartphone privacy rights in school. Digital Privacy Rights for Youth provides a legal look at student digital rights in school that hasn’t been done before, thanks to the efforts of BCCLA lawyers and policy staff doing the hard work of distilling complex information into something kids (and their educators and caregivers) can easily understand.
Finally, our third goal is a vibrant and influential Canadian internet community domestically and globally. Our Policy Engagement grants fund events, research and policy ecosystem work that broadens public awareness, understanding and engagement in domestic internet policy and governance to help build a trusted internet for all Canadians. As an example, CIRA funded a groundbreaking research report, Barriers to Digital Equality in Canada, produced by ACORN Canada, a grassroots advocacy organization. The report researched and documented the lack of affordable internet access in low-income communities, as a tool to connect policymakers with the lived experience and voices of low-income Canadians.
Maybe you’re a member of a remote Indigenous community and need funding to help build a community-owned and operated ISP to improve connectivity for school and work. You could be part of an organization that wants to lead a project to help children and their parents and teachers learn the fundamentals of online safety. Or maybe you’re an academic at a university that’s interested in researching how government regulation impacts affordable internet access in rural or remote communities.
Whatever challenges that Canadians face because of these digital divides, we hope that knowing more about the real-world impact of CIRA Grants encourages you to apply so we can fund more new impactful projects in 2023.
Click here to learn more about what we fund.
Important Dates for 2023
CIRA’s call for applications opens on March 2 and will close April 12, 2023 at 2p.m. ET. Make sure to apply early! Applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis until the deadline. Interested in applying and want more information? Register for our webinar on March 7. If you have any questions about CIRA Grants, reach out to [email protected].