Information Computer Technology -- Are We Using It?
In this age of new technology hitting the market just about every other day, it becomes important to find out whether the average person and the average business are using it. It is also important to find out what it is being used for by those who actually use it regularly.
This report provides a bit of a picture on what is happening in the five counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and Prescott-Russell. We have attempted to identify the average user as well as the average business that makes use of computers as well as the Internet. We have also attempted to identify whether this technology is used for e-Learning to any great extent.
To this end, we developed an agenda that was utilized in focus groups held across in various towns in our counties. No such focus group was held in Cornwall, as Smart City Cornwall has already completed such a process specific to their area.
Qualitative Focus Group Findings:
Five Counties Internet Access & e-Learning
Focus groups were held in Iroquois, Winchester, Casselman and Alexandria. These towns were identified as a good representation of the average resident and business that makes up the five counties being evaluated.
The audiences consisted of surrounding community members plus business, education and various equity groups representatives including the disabled and visible minorities. The majority of those in attendance were women. Numerous Francophones also were part of the audience and discussions.
Sessions lasted about two hours and were facilitated by Carleton University professor Keith A.J. Hay and Ottawa University graduate in Economics Michael Curri. Report was written from material and notes as well as input from the facilitators.
These findings attempt to reflect an image of what is happening out there with our population and business community. Our research is on-going and final conclusions have yet to be drawn.
- There is a lack of basic knowledge of Information Computer Technology (ICT) among small /medium business operators in our five counties.
- Numerous businesses are still not connected to the Internet.
- Many professionals and artisans need to consolidate and upgrade ICT skills.
- Many businesses who happen to have easy access to fibre-optics and other high speed connectivity options have yet to realize the opportunity that they have right at their doorstep, for potentially increased revenues.
- Employee on the-job-learning of ICT is considered by many Small Medium Enterprises (SME) employers to be wasteful of time and effort and contributes to job-hopping.
- But businesses agree that the necessities of registering, licensing, reporting and tax-paying by small/medium scale businesses are mounting burdens which can only be dealt with efficiently by PC use, preferably on-line.
- SMEs are often looking for ICT "jacks of all trades" at low costs.
- There is a substantial demand among employees for single new professional and academic courses, especially by those who already have certificates or degrees, as a means to re-certifying or adding specializations.
- Research and feedback from the groups, show that it is easier to learn in a small interactive group away from the family, rather than at home aloneÃ‚â€”peer group support.
- Home study, especially for women, is often unsustainable due to other family members wanting access to the PC; homework supervision of children; and general domestic requirements -- consequently, drop out rates at home are very high.
- Video-conferencing, according to some business representatives, can save as much as one person-week a year in out-of-office travel, including also hotel, food and travel expenses as well as lost productive work time taken up with travel to and from training centres out of the region e.g. Toronto area.
- Tele-commuting can save recurring journeys into Ottawa and/or Montreal, thereby reducing energy use, road congestion and environmental damage. It also reduces late evening commuting for female students.
- Therefore access to e-Learning centres within 30 minutes drive of home would be effective in saving time and money, while providing a conducive learning atmosphere.
- Nurses now need to take courses to earn degrees. These courses must be taken while they continue full-time employment e.g. Winchester Hospital.
- Other health care practitioners need to undertake continuous e-learning to stay abreast of recent scientific developments.
- Similarly, up-dating (and in some cases--annual re-licensing) is necessary for paralegals, para-accountants, pharmacists, insurance agents, real-estate agents, bank officers, funeral directors, travel agents and other service sector professionals.
- Small and medium size businesses need to have access to ICT centres of excellence that offer quick and specific training at low cost and during flexible hours. This would accommodate the business person as well as employees, students and our growing senior population.
- Many artisans such as electricians, plumbers, construction managers, auto-repairers, welders and the like need to have their skills up-dated and in some cases re-licensed regularly.
- Agricultural professionals need constant access to advisories on farm management, environment, animal husbandry, crop storage, genomes and the like. The focus groups felt that the impending down-scaling of local agricultural training institutions makes it imperative that the farm community can have access to local e-learning centres situated in central locations instead of on the periphery of our five counties. There are many other such examples from the retail, hospitality, services, government, manufacturing and transport industries in Eastern Ontario (among others), that were drawn to our attention. Suffice to say that more needs to be done in our five counties to address the needs of both the residents and the business community.
These focus groups have provided a view of what is happening out there. All indications are that:
- We have a population and a business community that is somewhat computer literate.
- We have a population that has yet to realize the opportunities that ICT and Internet offer in the areas of training, education, research, etc.
- We have a business community that even though high speed connectivity is available to them, have yet realized the potential it offers for added profits.
- We have a lack of training and marketing that would help ensure that our businesses and population increase their skills in order to continue to compete.
- We have a need for further discussion and research that will pinpoint specific challenges and opportunities that could result in the development of a strategic plan. Such a plan would or could help ensure that we as a population of the five eastern counties take advantage of ICT and Internet in order to ensure an enhanced future and continued economic growth.
For more information please contact the Eastern Ontario Training Board at (613) 932-0210.