If you have an idea to enhance the Internet, it could be worth bank. CIRA, the agency responsible for the .CA domain extension, is offering between up to $100,000 to community groups, not-for-profits, and academic institutions who need funding to pull off ideas that can "enhance the Internet for the benefit of all Canadians."
The deliberately vague use of the word "enhance" calls to mind technologically implausible CSI episodes, and it could entail anything from securing net neutrality to increasing Canadians' access to funny cat pictures.
Here are some of my own ideas for ways in which the Internet can be "enhanced":
1. Restore funding to C@P (the Community Access Program), which supplies free or affordable Internet access, particularly in remote areas where infrastructure is wanting. C@P has suffered a series of budget cuts from the federal government over the past three years.
2. Lobby to make Internet Access a Charter Right, taking a cue from a report by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
3. Continue campaigns by the likes of OpenMedia.ca to champion net neutrality, particularly with the advent of services like Playstation Now, which may not be accessible to Canadians given the Big Three telecom companies' penchant for capping and throttling.
4. Invest in computer science education for public schools, whose Internet and computer classes are largely the purview of middle-aged librarians. Not to attract cries of ageism here, but if you need help with your computer, a baby boomer is probably the very last person you'd approach for help.
5. Build a Spam and Scam Task Force responsible for aiding law enforcement in ferreting out hackers, boner pill advertisers, and Nigeria scammers, so that they can be extradited to Canada and punished by being tossed into the hinterland during moose rutting season.
6. Disrupt the academic journal cabals in Canada. Academic articles are the product of taxpayer-funded Universities, but they exist largely behind the paywalls of journal publishers. Put these documents back in the hands of taxpayers, indexed and searchable on the Internet, and cut paid journals out of the equation.
7. Develop one statistics site to rule them all. Any Canadian researcher, reporter, or student can tell you that finding specifically Canadian data can be very challenging. Statistics Canada is a great, but limited, start. Canadians should have one easily searchable site that collects as many Canadian-only facts and figures as possible, so that we no longer have to rely on American data to tell our own story.
Feel free to take any of these ideas and run with them. CIRA is accepting applications for their Community Investment Program from February 3 until Feburary 28.