OurDigitalWorld is delighted to see so many new programs in the Ontario budget that affect libraries and heritage.
As stewards of archives and special collections made digital by hundreds of libraries, archives, museums, galleries, historical societies, and interest groups, we are overjoyed to see investment in a Digital Public Library for Ontario.
We are so excited for all of the public libraries across Ontario at the long-overdue unfreezing of library funding. This is due to the amazing lobbying efforts of our friends at FOPL and OLA, and support from libraries and library staff across the province.
We’re also happy to see a goal of high-speed Internet access to every classroom by 2021, and an extra $500 million over three years to expand broadband connectivity in rural and northern communities. These and similar commitments to bring digital infrastructure to our most underserved populations will help us collect and share more of Ontario’s stories!
Some highlights from the 2018 Ontario budget:
Digital Public Library
To ensure that everyone can benefit from digital technologies in their lives, Ontario will invest $28 million over three years to create a provincial Digital Public Library that provides access to digital content such as e-books, music and audiobooks; research databases; special collections; and accessible and alternative format materials across a common web platform. For the first time, equitable digital library services will be available to all Ontarians regardless of where they live in the province — including rural, remote and Indigenous communities. This will support the province’s 300 public libraries, including 46 First Nation public libraries, which serve over 99 per cent of the population.
Building Up Public Libraries
Public libraries are increasingly embracing their role as community hubs, providing access to free information, programs and services across a range of areas such as newcomer settlement, early learning, housing, employment, small business support and public health. Libraries also offer important employment and career training programs to job seekers, helping connect them to the technology resources they need to find and compete for job opportunities. That is why Ontario is increasing the Public Library Operating Grant by $51 million over three years.
A Made-in-Ontario Data Strategy
… Recognizing the explosive growth of the data-driven economy, the government is exploring a Data Strategy for the province that will help ensure that the people of Ontario are able to reap the significant benefits from responsibly using publicly funded data generated here, while protecting the public interest. The government will consult with key stakeholders to inform a Data Strategy so that Ontarians benefit from data generated in Ontario while leveraging the potential that data holds to enhance economic activity and grow Ontario businesses.
Enhancing Access and Engagement through Digital Learning
… Ontario is connecting an additional 250,000 students at approximately 850 schools with high-speed Internet access by the end of 2018, and is on track to bring high-speed Internet access to every classroom by 2021.
… Through the Technology and Learning Fund, students across the province are experiencing a wide range of digital learning opportunities, including robotics and coding activities, assistive technologies and digitally facilitated connections with other students, classrooms, schools and experts, across Canada and the world.
Investing in Digital Infrastructure
To ensure that people of Ontario can fully participate in the 21st century economy and access basic services, the government is investing an additional $500 million over three years to expand broadband connectivity in rural and northern communities. This will include an investment of up to $71 million towards improving cellular coverage in eastern Ontario, and up to $20 million to Telesat to support a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation project, which will help enable access to secure broadband services in rural and remote Ontario. These investments will also help to increase average speeds in underserved and unserved communities.