The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) has once again put out a national call for grant applications for funds to assist internet projects across the country.
Preference will be given to projects that not only benefit students but also those geared to assist Indigenous communities and those in rural and northern locations.
CIRA has been providing more than $1 million in funding to various projects each year since 2014. For the past few years, including this year, it has offered $1.25 million in grants.
Registered charities, non-profit organizations and researchers and academics affiliated with a post-secondary school in Canada are encouraged to submit funding applications for projects before the April 14 deadline.
Traditionally, CIRA officials receive more than 100 applications for funding annually.
“We usually fund 15- 20- per cent of the applications that come in,” said Maureen James, who manages CIRA’s Community Investment Program. “It’s very competitive.”
During the past seven years CIRA has provided a total of $7.95 million in funding for 171 projects across the country.
The funding program is looking to specifically fund projects in four areas this year.
The Infrastructure category includes research or projects that boost internet speed, access and affordability. Digital Literacy ventures include research, training programs and tools to develop digital skills.
The Cybersecurity category includes research and projects that advocate for users’ online safety. And Community Leadership Initiatives includes research or events that assist Canadians in domestic internet policy issues.
“It used to be a lot more broad,” James said of projects CIRA previously provided grants for. “This is the second year now with these particular focuses.”
CIRA’s funding will include one grant up to a maximum of $250,000. Others can apply for up to $100,000 in funding.
“We used to do smaller projects and then as people became more interested it turned into more substantial projects,” James said. “I think the most we’ve funded in a year is 28 or 29 projects.”
James anticipates CIRA officials could potentially see the highest number of funding applications this year. And she attributes this to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think we expect a lot more people to apply this year,” she said. “COVID has certainly increased the demand for internet access like overnight.”
The need in Indigenous communities across the country is especially great.
In its Communication Monitoring report issued last year the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) discovered that just over one-third (34 per cent) of First Nations households in the country had access to basic internet only.
More information on CIRA’s grants is available here https://www.cira.ca/improving-canadas-internet/grants
CIRA will also be hosting informational webinars on its funding grants in both English and French next week.
The English webinar is set for March. 9 at 1 p.m. EST. And the French webinar is scheduled for March 10 at 2 p.m. EST
CIRA’s call for applications was sent out Tuesday of this week. By yesterday more than 100 people had registered for next week’s English webinar.
“It tells us there’s a lot of interest, which is good,” James said. “CIRA’s name has been getting out a little bit more.”
James said those looking to submit funding applications are not required to attend the informational webinars.
“It’s an opportunity for us to highlight key aspects that sometimes people might miss with their application,” she said.
CIRA welcomes applications from groups that have received funding from them in the past.
“We have had repeat recipients,” James said, adding a funded project must be complete before another grant can be secured. “The project has to be finished and signed off in order to do another one.”
Several Indigenous projects have been among those in recent years that have received funding.
For example, the Mamawapowin Technology Society received a grant in 2019. This non-profit was keen to upgrade and expand wireless infrastructure to all 600 homes on Samson Cree First Nation, located in Maskwacis, Alta.
Funding recipients in 2020 included I-STEAM and Siksika Health Services.
I-STEAM is a research and design project delivering STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programming to Indigenous youth at Antler River Elementary School in Chippewas of the Thames First Nation in southwestern Ontario.
As for Siksika Health Services, it received funding for its southern Alberta project to upgrade the internet infrastructure in five community buildings. These upgrades provide high-speed internet for not only staff in the facilities but also for youth, Elders and community members who utilize the buildings.
By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com