Digital literacy courses set to debut in Thompson

New program looking to bridge digital divide in Northern Manitoba

The Information and Communications Technologies Association of Manitoba (ICTAM) will be providing free computer classes at the University College of the North’s Thompson campus starting Aug. 13.

The group’s new program, called DigitALL, is aimed at teaching older members of the community and northern residents who live in isolated communities how to successfully navigate and adapt to the constantly changing online landscape.

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ICTAM program director Margaux Miller says that these courses will focus on topics ranging from computer basics to office management software to Internet privacy.

Learning these basic skills is a very important part of today’s working world, Miller said, since employers are listing them as prerequisites more and more. 

“Around 84 per cent of jobs in Canada now require basic technical skills,” she said. “So that is a very easy number to look at and say everyone could probably use some kind of digital upscale.”

UCN president Doug Lauvstad said in a July 25 press release that the school decided to let ICTAM use their facilities due to the high demand for these kinds of digital literacy courses in the north.

“Many individuals in our community have requested basic computer courses as they fear being left behind as the world rapidly evolves into a digital economy,” he said. “This kind of training is important as it enables citizens to participate and communicate in contemporary society.”

This fear of being left behind is still an issue in Canada, since the country’s digital divide is getting larger.

According to the most recent Information and Communications Technology Development Index, which measures a population’s overall use of and access to the Internet, Canada is ranked 29th out of 176 nations. Not only does this represent a drop from the country’s 26th ranking the previous year, but it means Canada still lags behind most other G7 nations in giving its citizens reliable access to the digital marketplace.

This divide is especially relevant for residents of rural communities in Northern Manitoba, where Internet connectivity is spotty at best compared to major urban centres.

“When a lot of people talk about [this issue in] Manitoba they accidently just talk about Winnipeg,” said Miller. “And as the tech association of Manitoba, we wanted to make sure that we were offering the services of this program to underrepresented and underserved populations and locations all across the province.”

To help kickstart this process, ICTAM applied for a federal grant this year and started running pilot training sessions in Winnipeg, The Pas and Thompson in June.

Miller said they managed to attract 69 participants for their Thompson sessions alone, which bodes well for the next batch of DigitALL classes that they are planning to run on an interval basis for the next three years.   

Following the “Intro to Computers” course Aug. 13-15, ICTAM’s follow-up workshops in Thompson will cover Microsoft Project (Aug. 20-24), safety and privacy on social media (Sept. 10-12) and Microsoft Word (Sept. 17-19).

To register for these courses, please visit UCN’s Thompson enrolment services office in person or contact them at 204-677-6450 or th_reception@UCN.ca.

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