TiHS Episode 42: Lisa DeGara – a much needed Newcomer rural perspective on digital inclusion

Welcome to episode 42 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode, I chat with Lisa DeGara, Manager, Small Centres at Action for Healthy Communities in Alberta.

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I came across Lisa’s work in rural Alberta in a conference presentation and wanted to chat with her about the challenges and opportunities of digital in and between rural small centres, with a focus on how to provide services in that challenge/opportunity context. She’s able to effectively put a face to what we know about stats and information about rural internet access, what the acceleration of hybrid/digital service delivery means in that context, and the additional nuances of Newcomer-related digital literacy, digital divide challenges.

We explore what she learned from her Summer 2021 Digital Literacy training, including how she was able to replicate another nonprofit’s curriculum for Newcomers, and how important the device (Chromebook) was in that process. We also explore that post-COVID context, and how we can harness what we learned during a time of purely remote service delivery and what means for how Immigrant and Refugee-serving organizations serve Newcomers in rural small centres.

The work she and her colleagues are doing in rural communities and how our sector’s shift to hybrid services is important for us to discuss and ensure is taken into account in digital inclusion work in our sector. As you’ll hear, those that rural perspective is not heard or included often enough in our national conversation. And it needs to be. Hybrid means very different things, has many nuances, and is approached very differently in different settings.

Lisa says that technology is merely a means of enhancing the in-person experience. You can do a lot online. But it’s best if you use technology to enhance that in-person interaction. And she outlines how dangerous an urban, bureaucratized, middle class, Southern Ontario perspective that permeates our sector’s thinking can be when it comes to digital inclusion. As she describes, many people can’t just walk down to their local library to access devices, high speed internet, and support. We also talk a bit about the cult of efficiency. It’s OK to be less efficient if your impact is high. That’s a strong balance and tension that needs to be addressed.

Lest you think she might be a Luddite, Lisa recently completed a Master of Science in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I really enjoyed our conversation, the needed perspective she brings that I found myself realizing I don’t have enough of, and what it means for our sector.

Some of the questions we discussed:

  • Rural and small centre internet access is less stable, slower, and more expensive than in most urban centres. The internet is a necessity, not a luxury, can you tell us a bit more about your experiences with internet connectivity as a challenge in rural small centres?
  • Can you give us a bit of a sense of the Newcomer context in super small centres (eg. isolation, limited local services, discrimination, other challenges), in particular when it comes to the role digital/virtual services can play?
  • Can you tell me a bit about your Summer 2021 Digital Literacy training, including how you were able to replicate the Boys and Girls Club curriculum for Newcomers?
  • We know that many Newcomers have smartphones, but how important was giving Newcomer a larger device (Chromebook) in that process? What other aspects of Newcomer digital literacy did you learn about that are important for others to be aware of? Can you speak a bit about what you described as the Newcomer shift to digital adoption while facing a digital lag?
  • What did you learn and how has that impacted your work now in those and other communities?
  • In your 2021 conference presentation “Supporting Virtual, Hybrid and In-Person Service Delivery Among and Between Rural Small Centres” you discussed how the sector is shifting to a hybrid service context. What does that mean for how Immigrant and Refugee-serving organizations serve Newcomers in rural small centres? What are the opportunities and challenges for service providers in that context?

Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation using Otter.ai. The transcript has not been edited. It may contain errors and odd sentence breaks and is not a substitute for listening to the audio.

Marco Campana 0:00
Welcome to Episode 42 of the technology and human services podcast. And this episode I chat with Lisa DeGara manager small centers that Action for Healthy Communities in Alberta. I came across Lisa’s work in rural Alberta in a conference presentation and wanted to chat with her about the challenges and opportunities of digital in in between rural small centers. With a focus on how to provide services in that challenge and opportunity context, she’s able to effectively put a face to what we know about stats and information about rural internet access, what the acceleration of hybrid and digital service delivery means in that context, and the additional nuances of newcomer related digital literacy and digital divide challenges. We explore what she learned from her summer 2021 digital literacy training, including how she was able to replicate and other nonprofits curriculum for newcomers, and how important the device was in that process. We also explore that post COVID context and how we can harness what we learned during a time of purely remote service delivery. And what that means for how immigrants and refugees serving organizations serve newcomers in rural centers. The work she and her colleagues are doing in rural communities and how our sector shift to hybrid services is important for us to discuss and ensure is taken into account in digital inclusion work in our sector, as you’ll hear that that rural perspective is not heard or included often enough international conversations and it needs to be hybrid means very different things has many nuances and is approached very differently in different settings. Lisa says the technology is merely a means of enhancing the in person experience. You can do a lot online, but it’s best if you use technology to enhance that in person interaction. And she outlines how dangerous in urban bureaucratized middle class southwestern Ontario perspective that permeates our sectors thinking can be when it comes to digital inclusion. As she describes many people can’t just walk down to their local library to access devices high speed internet and support. We also need to talk a bit about the cost of efficiency. It’s okay to be less efficient if your impact is high. She says that’s a strong balance and tension that needs to be addressed in our conversation. Lest you think that she might be a bit of a Luddite Lisa is currently pursuing a Master of Science in digital education at the University of Edinburgh. I really enjoyed our conversation that needed perspective she brings that I found myself realizing I don’t have enough of and what it means for our sector. I think you’ll enjoy this conversation. Welcome, Lisa to the technology and human services podcast. Thanks so much for joining me. Um, can you tell me a little bit about yourself, your background and some of the digital transformation work that you’re doing at Action for Healthy Communities?

Lisa DeGara 2:24
Absolutely. Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate the chance to be invited. I appreciate that you’re doing deep dives of prior presentations, I give a lot of presentations. And one of the great things is that I give it and then I immediately forget. So it’s nice to be reminded of something I’d done previously. So my name is Lisa Chang Gaara. I am a manager at Action for Healthy Communities. We are an IRCC funded settlement organization. We’re headquartered here in Edmonton, Alberta. But as a manager of the small Centers program, I do the support of all of the rural communities that we support immigrants and refugees. And so my team works in LaDuke and Beaumont, just south of Edmonton near the airport. We work in Camrose, which is a community of about 15 to 20,000 people, about 90 minutes south east of the city of Edmonton. We do work in cold lake and Bonnyville, which our communities bought. Bonnyville is about three hours northeast of Edmonton and cold lake is about three and a half hours just at the border with Saskatchewan.

Lisa DeGara 3:19
And in addition, we do lots of work with lots of other surrounding communities obviously doesn’t translate podcast but I felt like back over my shoulder. We do support I think in schools in I want to say 17 Different communities across Alberta. So we’re in Glendon population 500, home of the giant pierogi which is not that giant, it’s only about seven feet tall. Lack of rubbish we are in Bashaw we are involved. We’re in Riley, we’re in tofield Forsberg, all these things every day, I feel like I’m learning a new small part of town. So background, my background. Originally I studied political science at McGill University. Then I returned to the prairies from Edmonton originally returned prairie study at the University of Saskatchewan, Master of Public Administration program. Johnson Triana, I teach there sometimes so big fan, we love JSPs great school. And then at the moment academically, I’m also studying Master of Science in digital education online with the University of Edinburgh. So digital things are a big passion of mine. And I’ll jump to that in a second. I had the opportunity to work with the Government of Alberta for a number of years, I worked for an economic development organization for a while and then in March of 2021, I was able to come into this role with action and healthy communities. It’s interesting to think about like digital transformation in the immigrant refugee sector, because I think from my perspective, digital transformation was not it was not really a priority. It was something that was pandemic mediated, and I think we’ll have a chat talk more detail about it. But even as somebody who like I really think of myself as being kind of like a technology evangelist, again, I’m doing digital education. I’m working on a dissertation research work about access to digital education in Yukon Territory. So that’s like another thing that’s going on, but I also have some real concerns and some real challenges that we’ve noticed in digital work with new car populations for a whole host of different reasons that we’ll jump into. But yeah, here, we’re in rural Alberta love policy, love intranet and love digital things. And I guess we’ll go for the rest of questions from there.

Marco Campana 5:16
That’s awesome. That’s fantastic. Yeah, and I mean, so many, so many questions, just starts the maze of following following through on some of those threads will be really interesting. So I mean, let’s talk about rural and small center internet access, you know, what we know about it is that it’s typically less stable, it’s slower, it’s more expensive than in a lot of urban centers, this is well documented, you know, in some, in some ways that’s been dealt with slightly over the pandemic, in terms of the realization and some, some funding in theory from the federal government, but it feels like we’re a bit slower than other jurisdictions, I’m thinking of the United States, for example, which has its own challenges, but they have huge broadband infrastructure funds, through through and also through through state and local resources and things like that. So um, but you know, as you pointed out in your presentation, and as we know, especially because of the pandemic, that the internet is, you know, a necessity, it’s not a luxury. So, what does that meant in terms of the challenges, and sort of some of what you’ve learned in, you know, internet connectivity as a service platform in rural and small centers?

Lisa DeGara 6:19
Yeah, so it’s really interesting. Like I said, I started this work in March of 2021. And by that point, the pandemic had been going on for a full year. But as we began, began to engage in settlement workers in schools in Swiss programming with immigrants and refugees in these small communities, there were like dozens and dozens of children who didn’t have a computer. So like, there was no computer in their home, meaning that the pandemic had been going on for a full year, and they had never had access to like a functional digital device. Similarly, we have clients who continue to really grapple with the elements of digital literacy. And I think like digital literacy always has been emphasized in the context of our people able to do things. But if you don’t have the literacy, you also can’t acquire the literacy and the need for the devices not relevant to you. In the rural communities where we work, I think, talking about this sort of like necessity, luxury component, which I really do believe like, I think the finished position that broadband is human right, is critical, especially when we look at, you can’t access most Canadian government programs by a computer, schools have an even harder time I spent a lot of my time talking to school divisions about like, you can’t just send emails, you actually have to do people things in paper, and they are violently opposed to this, It like makes them incredibly angry, to have to print things out and give them to people. But I what what strikes me is in this in the rural communities where we work, a lot of newcomers, if not actually, a majority of newcomers are living in poverty. There’s a lot of kind of unspoken implications about rural immigration, namely that people are typically working in minimum wage positions. They’re typically working in more tenuous employment. These are not communities of first choice, which is not something that we’d like to acknowledge very often with our rural partners, but it’s true. And so as a consequence, you have people who are already sort of tenuously at the edge of of economic functioning, can they afford their rent? Can they afford to feed their children can they afford, you know, cheat, and then you add this element of in order to access essential things you need to pay for internet, which is expensive, which is inconsistent. My team members that I have pleasure working with live in the rural communities. And often we have issues with internet connectivity, people dropping off, people not able to engage, there are sections on our travels that have very limited, even just basic cell reception well on 3g and 4g Internet. And so where I think it becomes the biggest issue is in kind of our expectation and how we structure how we structure the need for internet and what it’s intended to do. So if you think about, oh, we’re going to do something like this, we’re gonna do a synchronous Zoom meeting, and we’re going to do online English class. That’s a wonderful idea in theory, and in terms of access to people in many communities all at once. What a great idea. But if you’re in a community where access to 3g is limited, or access to broadband is very expensive. Suddenly, you’re asking people well, is doing an online enough class worth spending the $25, it costs for one gigabyte of Internet, and then these questions become a lot more like their their cost benefit analyses that families are having to do every single day, which is an even tougher proposition if you don’t have that digital literacy to begin with. So there’s like layers and layers and layers of challenges that are all coming together. Yeah, it’s tough, tough stuff, for sure.

Marco Campana 9:23
Yeah, no, I mean, and it’s those layers. And I think I mean, we can jump to the the other part of one of the threads you were talking about, which is we’re moving forward in theory as a sector with a hybrid service delivery model, which should incorporate the realities of people who don’t have access or simply don’t want to access online services, but also a scaling and a deepening of the opportunities to access services 24/7, you know, through through various automation techniques and things like that for people who do want to access them. But I feel and I wonder if we if we understand enough of the challenges for those who do Who can’t access? And so, you know, you kind of alluded to it. But if we’re moving forward as a sector with this kind of a model, what are some of those challenges that you are those? Those are those caveats that you kind of were alluding to earlier?

Lisa DeGara 10:11
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think so in our case, the way that we use hybrid models is largely for language. So anytime we’re engaging with a client, ideally speaking, we do have a staff member who’s physically there with them. With a small team in a distributed service area, like we have a huge geographical service area. Realistically, the use of hybridization is that we have one staff member who’s in the community, and another staff member who’s joining virtually because they speak the same first language as the client. So as an example, from earlier this week, we have a family that is from Eritrea, they’re living in Camrose, Alberta, my staff member who’s in Camrose, Alberta speaks only English, but we have a staff member here in the Edmonton office who speaks to grandma, and she can join via zoom, so that the family can speak into green Yeah, and then there’s like a conversation that’s happening in person. And then the conversation is happening digitally as well, that they’re both happening at the same time. When I think about hybridized service delivery, I think that’s really one of our biggest focuses. One of the things that the pandemic has really revealed and and it’s disquieting, it’s something that that upsets me a lot, especially again, as somebody who really believes in in the benefits of this intranet model is people living in poverty, people who have limited formal education, especially if they have no or limited post secondary people who have executive dysfunction challenges. Digital Services are essentially inaccessible to them. We are kind of debt, we’re very often kind of dancing around how we can engage these families. And very often it is like we have done all the legwork. I need you to show up at the school at this time, we will have a laptop open, we will have something available for you. There was recently a thing that was put out, it was in one of our I want to say one of our Alberta association of immigrant serving agencies calls and immigration refugees and citizenship, Canada had asked how can we get newcomers engaged in these digital work from home jobs like they’re, they’re such an expanding sector, they’re growing so much. And I said, like, you can’t, because people don’t have that skills base like we are seeing in my view, almost have a much accelerated much increased bifurcation of society into you have higher education, you have high literacy, you have high digital literacy. So you can access these really very plum work from home positions, or you have no post secondary education, you have very limited due to literacy or technology access, you are kind of condemned is maybe too strong of a word, but you’ve been sectioned off into these less desirable working roles. When I put that to IRCC. In the conversation, like you could hear a pin drop, they were so upset to hear that. But I like we have a client just as an example, we have a client, lovely lady, she, you know, she’s done a huge amount for herself. She’s she’s working on her own, she was able to leave on an abusive relationship. She’s looking after a one year old son. And she would come into our office once a week to check her email, because she could not work out how to do it on her own. And like with all the sessions with all the teaching, so you know, all these forms, all these government benefits, all of these things are coming in via email, and what were you able to provide in terms of digital services come on in Thursday at two o’clock, you know, the address, and we’ll go through all your emails with you. And for me like it’s, it’s been a really, it’s been an upsetting thing to see that level of severity, because it makes me worried like, what were people to be able to access over this period of lockdown. One of our big priorities actually, I think we started in September of 2021, was having as many staff in the office as often as possible, because unfortunately, we came to realize that most of our clients or many of our clients that are very vulnerable, were not able to access these badly needed things over months and months and months. And so it’s it’s a tough, it’s a tough spot that we find ourselves in, we want to be able to hybridize and I think having professionals in community and professionals online, and the professionals are connecting for the benefit of the client, that’s been the triangulation that has worked best for us. But it’s been it’s been a it’s been a stressful thing to witness. I think a lot of people just don’t like we haven’t had that growth and development of digital literacy. And, and so as a consequence, we have to plan using the digital part as a benefit to us as providers, but with the acknowledgement that our clients continue to struggle in the ways that they have historically.

Marco Campana 14:10
It’s interesting, there’s so many layers to that. But one of them is that this idea that a hybrid model is not one set thing. And the way you’re describing it is, you know, is is a good way to use the technology efficiently, and still provide service to your clients, even though they’re not the ones who are necessarily the users of the technology users. And I think that’s it sounds to me, like that’s an important model that we have to kind of understand is a legitimate service model and a hybrid service delivery approach while we’re trying to work on getting them perhaps up to that technology, that digital literacy, access to devices, better bandwidth, those kinds of things at the same time is recognizing that maybe that was in a choice environment that they may not want to do that necessarily. They may they may like this, this sort of different hybrid model. And I wonder when you have that conversation when you have That conversation with IRCC. And with your colleagues, you know, is your sense that the way we’re talking about this is still kind of an either or, and not like a multitude of nuance within the way we’re approaching the model?

Lisa DeGara 15:13
It’s a good question. I think that as we look at a lot of the service models, there is, well, there’s kind of two big challenges that I noticed. And one of them I think, should be familiar. This is this is across Canada, right. As a nationwide, the nation’s podcast. One of the challenges that I noticed a lot is there’s a ton of Southern Ontario thinking, and I hate to come across as an angry Albertan. Because I’m really not. But there’s a ton of Southern Ontario thinking that’s built into everything, which is, well, if they haven’t got a computer at home, they can make a short, you know, three minute walk down to the local public library. And it’s like, Nah, like, it doesn’t, it’s not like that. So that’s the first component is I think that there’s very often a dense urbanist thinking associated with everything, which is that if you haven’t got internet, maybe it’s cuz you can’t afford it in your apartment. But you can go to a place it’ll be readily available. You can walk to Starbucks, you go to the library, you go to your kids school, the kids school has loaner laptops like that kind of, there’s an assumption about, maybe you’re not able to access but there’s an assumption about the secondary sources that are available for you to access. I think that is very much coloring the perception. I think there’s a sort of a wider question. And I think it’s kind of beyond the scope of this. But there is a broader challenge that we have of like a kind of of democratized middle class thinking that I think permeates a lot of service delivery about, well, we don’t, we can’t know what’s going on in the community unless they fill out the Community Survey. And what you need to do is you need to go on Survey Monkey www.surveymonkey.com/g, two q x 272834, dash three, seven, and then you need to fill out the 28 question survey. And so like, we end up in this weird context where if you have the skills, you are engaging in this digitized format, and if you don’t, then you’re really not able to. So in terms of the hybridized format, I don’t know very often when I sit in the centralised meetings, I think that people are gonna be like, I’m speaking a whole nother language. Because I think that we’re, we’re always trying to make things client focused, it’s not about what’s convenient for us as providers is about what’s convenient for the client. So as an example, the hybridize model that we’ve done recently, which I think again, speaks to it, like my staff member who lives in Bonnyville, Alberta speaks Ukrainian and Russia. I had a family who had arrived from Ukraine, who were having a lot of struggles. And they were in Lamont, Alberta, which is about 45 minutes east of Edmonton, but several hours west of Bonneville. So it was like, Okay, I’m going to drive to the school. And then when I get to the school, I will open my laptop, the family will be there. And then the mike, my staff member will be able to connect digitally. But one of the things that was so interesting, like it all worked out my staff ever talked to was great. There’s actually another family that showed up. So that was that really well. But one of the things that was really interesting is as we left, I spoke to the principal of the school, and he said, You don’t know how much it means to us that you came here in person. And I said, you know, like, we do know how much that means. That’s why we make the effort. These digital services, I think, and again, especially in my in my master’s program, there’s a lot of emphasis on like, digital shouldn’t be seen as lesser than, and I agree on some level. But when we’re dealing with rural communities, often the biggest tip of fire of engagement of demonstrating willingness to engage is that you made the effort you got in your car, and you drove on these terrible secondary highways to see people in person. And so then the benefit of language is being connected in or benefit of programming and so on. But often it’s that relationship development of Yes, I am willing to make the effort. Yes, I am willing to drive Yes, I am willing to go to these places. That’s often the thing that makes the biggest difference. So the technology becomes a means of enhancing the in person experience, that’s probably the best way to put it. Because then I don’t have to just have like a crackly you know, phone on speaker that I’m connecting with my line interpreter. But it’s that in person, the technology enhances the in person experience. And I think that’s one of the biggest things that we’ve learned in our hybrid model. You can do a lot online, but it’s best if you have the online enhancing the in person.

Marco Campana 18:51
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And I wonder if you’re given that you’re the there’s an idea that digital can be lesser than, is there a sense that in some ways, because people are pushing so hard toward digital service delivery, that in person is almost kind of perceived as something lesser than in too resource intensive? And, and not as not as efficient? Perhaps?

Lisa DeGara 19:11
Um, yeah, I think that’s a that’s an important point, I think absolutely. Like, in person service is less efficient. It’s absolutely less efficient. But it’s more impactful, like low low efficiency, high impact, I think is a big part of our work. And I think from the from the resources perspective, this has become a very tough conversation, especially with IRCC. We sent them our travel budget, and they were like, That’s outrageous, your drive too much. And I said, we drive. Not enough, I would contend but there’s this vision. I think, again, it’s very centralized. It’s very open thinking, well, I you know, I can do any meeting that I need to do for my kitchen. So I don’t see any reason why anybody should need to go anywhere and you’re like, this is actually not and I think it comes with a kind of a cohorting of prospective clients like we continue to do virtual meetings. But again, I don’t know how other people’s virtual meetings are going. But very often if we have a triangulation virtual meeting, so we have a client who’s who’s coming in from somewhere digital, we have an interpreter, we have a third person, like, the client is always on a phone. Like they’re never operating from a fully functional digital device, you’re always getting like, like this. Like, it’s the worst angle you’ve ever seen in your life. There’s always a child screaming, there’s always birds, like, it’s everything. And so I think there is perhaps the beginnings of perception. And I see it most often in the LinkedIn context, actually, especially like corporatized work. There’s this perception I think of in person as kind of wheat for lack of a better word, like kind of Rubby, like it is seen as this kind of like, oh, like, you have to be in person with people, how irritating how kind of slovenly all those. Whereas I started seeing those those messages from this United States, especially like kind of June, July of this year of like, Americans are going back to the office. And I was like, Honey, we have been in the office like, I don’t know what people were doing. But that’s been such an interesting thing to observe. And I think there’s also and this is another kind of interesting layer to add, the Alberta of it all is quite different. Like I, in my previous employment, we were back in the office in July of 2020. Like this idea of being it feels to me, a being cloistered in your home, because you can’t cross the threshold of your home and be out in the world. We noticed that tension a lot in the way that programs are planned. And this implication, well, everybody can do everything online, they can’t. But we do also like I don’t want to diminish it. Because we do also offer a lot of programs online, especially for connecting people from many centers at once. So we have our kids club programming, where the the instructors are here in Edmonton, and the children are joining us from 20 separate communities like that’s a really impressive thing that we do. But when the stakes are high, I think to have that in person connection is a means of demonstrating to someone I cared enough to make the effort to come here. And so that’s a really interesting again, like it, these are such difficult kind of concepts to see intersecting, especially at this juncture. But realistically, especially over 2022, especially as we’ve been out and about, it has become evident to me like remote work is upper class and in person is perceived as like a working class thing. And I think we’ve seen that throughout. But it’s becoming even more crisp and more evident at this stage of the pandemic, when people tell me that they’re like, they’re my friends why like, oh, like we went home four days a week, I’m like, I can’t I can’t understand like, I’m in the schools every day rolls every day. So anyway, that’s that’s sort of how it feels around a lot of these these challenges that there is class stratification that’s happening, there is education stratification that’s happening. And it feels insidious, I guess it feels like it’s not discussed, which I guess is why great opportunity to discuss it now. So who knows?

Marco Campana 22:47
No, I love that you’re bringing this up. Because I think it’s there as an undercurrent in some of the conversations in particular, when we, you know, we’ve come to kind of a deeper understanding of digital inclusion in the way that we’ve realized that it’s, it’s connected to social inclusion and economic inclusion, which as you’ve eloquently described, is a huge challenge, not just in, in work for rural newcomers, or newcomers in rural settings, but But in, you know, Southern Ontario, I’m in Toronto, so, you know, me a cool, but I know, right, but But you know, it’s fine. But even in the in, even in the nuances of understanding, you know, both preferences as well as abilities to connect, there’s, there’s huge digital divide issues within within, within the city like Toronto, that people are only just sort of kind of really realizing because again, of the of the of that perception, or that attitude of well just go online, and even the idea, like you described earlier have secondary places where you can get, you know, free Wi Fi and things like that, or even, you know, device loans or things like that start to fall apart, when you start to put in a service context where someone needs some privacy where they need a space, you know, beyond just the the Wi Fi itself, they need something more permanent in order to be able to access services in particular, if it’s outside of hours, where you know, a library or a Starbucks or McDonald’s or whatever it might be able to provide free Wi Fi and things like that. And so it really rapidly does fall apart, even in a in an urban context, where the perception is that there’s significant, you know, connectivity, at least, but there are still Digital Divide issues. And one of the one of the most important ones is around like you said, the device, most newcomers have phones, and they’re willing to, to, to pay for that and the you know, the the the insane prices of for bandwidth that they’re not used to from their own countries of origin. And for NGO other things because they recognize the importance of that, but we’re not providing services that are mobile friendly. And that’s that’s, that’s that’s not their challenge. That’s a challenge that is more systemic in some ways. So I think that there is sort of that realization, but it sounds like in the conversations, for example, and and even just in an IRCCs perspective, so I don’t know if you’ve seen some of their language around the vision for digital settlement services coming up. They came up with a couple of things a couple of years ago, and I find the language is really interesting. I’m just gonna read it to you. So one of them is the vision for clients, his clients are able to access high quality settlement services online and can opt to complement these within person offering, oh, well, I know the red flags, the red flags in a line like that are pretty significant, right? But it gives you a sense of exactly what you were kind of describing of that kind of, you know, urban bureaucratized, more middle class kind of perspective on you know, we are going to focus on digital, and in person will be a complement to that. And all what we’re hearing, including from people in urban centers is there are not, there are nuances to all of that. Some things, newcomers who if you kind of put all the caveats in place who have the digital literacy who have the English language skills, if necessary, you have the devices who have the bandwidth, they’ll have the private spaces will have the time will have the inclination in the interest, the star certain services that they stay prefer to access online, from conversations I’ve had in surveys, the transactional kinds of services, the ones that are less personal, because you want to tell me how to write a resume, I don’t need to be in front of you to do that, I can watch a webinar and send me the template and I’ll work on it, then I’ll send it back to you. And at the point, when we need to, we’ll have an in person meeting versus the pieces that they want to have in person, which tends to be around intake and assessment because they actually want to make a connection, and social recreational kinds of pieces. And then the nuances of things like you’re describing where if you take away all of those caveats, well, then you need even more in person things to do kind of what you’re you’re talking about those interventions where you have the technology, you have the bandwidth, and you come and you sit down with them to do it. So I think that while we’re realizing all of this, there is this sense of a vision that’s a bit disconnected from what we’re learning in our own sector. And I wonder if you see leadership needed or evolving in our sector to have that conversation and push back a little bit. I don’t want to go down this road. So we’re going

Lisa DeGara 26:58
to you’re about pushback. And I’m like I got I suppose

Marco Campana 27:00
automates advocacy. No, that’s a bad word. I’m

Lisa DeGara 27:03
not advocating pushback is pushback. And like, I had not heard that statement about like, we’re going to be digital first. And to me like to be frank that reads is completely delusional. And I’m in trouble all the time. So it doesn’t matter. I’m like, what I think is so weird in that context. So like, an example is like we’ve done digitally, it has been really effective is in Alberta. We have a ton of Ukrainian evacuees, not refugees with a policy. We have a ton of Ukrainian evacuees who are coming in. And we’ve had staff so I had here in Edmonton, we have an employment specialist team. And then I operate in small centers team. So the employment one of the employment specialists work with one of my small centers, Ukrainian speakers, to produce a presentation about labor rights. And so that was able to be conducted as like a synchronous presentation that was then recorded that was delivered to communities throughout Alberta. So like, it was in Alberta it was it was in Edmonton, it was in Calgary, it was in the rural communities like that ended up being really impactful, really positive thing that we can say, Okay, this is information that is not available in a digestible way in the client’s first language. So let’s make that happen. That’s a really great example of where digital digital first programming can be done. I would contend that accepting very limited circumstances pretty much any one to one interaction is best done. I mean, like over the phone, I guess, is also finding online offline, but in many cases, is best done in person. And part of the reason why we continue to see this challenge is because I think there’s a vision of the services that newcomers require that is sort of promoted in the sector, which is certainly in our case, not what not what I see our newcomers requiring, one of the services that we provide the most often, and this is like I’ve worked my my program is primary Swiss. So like we do a lot of work with K to 12 students, one of the most common services that we are asked to provide by schools is, we’ve got a child here, child has newcomer child is six years old. It’s very obvious to us as the school that the child has autism. The parents won’t answer our emails, the parents won’t speak to us, they won’t acknowledge us. Could you please mediate the meeting where the school tells the parents that the child has autism, like that’s a meeting that I have minimum three times a month, like I’m not exaggerating. And so the idea that this is like, you know, most easily done from like, I’m sitting here in my office on my computer, and the parents presumably are also sitting at a computer and the teacher is sitting at a computer, like it is so sort of far beyond the scale of what we certainly see even newcomers, which is a lot of newcomers working multiple jobs, again, limited device access all these sorts of, like, truly challenges of crises of poverty. And I think one of the really interesting tensions that’s not necessarily related to the the digital element, but certainly the sector in general, is, I think what we see in community and especially in rural communities, is not what is understood as the services required at settlement. So service is required of someone I always have this idea of like the ideal person is like their permanent resident. They have a CLB six, at least six in English, your master’s degree from their home country, and they’re coming along Excuse me, wanted to have a better understanding of how I might conduct upgrading so that I may become a Chartered Professional Accountant. Could you help me with that, and then we’re working to give them a brochure. Thank you. Thank you so much for coming in. Here’s your brochure. And in reality, what we’re seeing is a lot of clients who come in through sort of unconventional methods, we have a lot of temporary foreign workers who’ve either been able to obtain permanent residency or maybe haven’t, and they’re in this sort of like Limbo space. And so when we acknowledge that newcomers are this cohort, then these bureaucratized notions become less and less viable. If we’re looking at a lot of newcomer children with disabilities. We’re looking at a lot of families with very, very limited official language skills. We’re looking at a lot of families where people are working multiple jobs, we’re looking like when we start to put all of those factors in together, it becomes evident that a digital model works for a cohort of people. I mean, I do, because of the nature of my work, I do digital meetings, probably 30 hours a week, like is a huge part of what I do with direct client service, as much as we can to think of it as it’s not that the digital is, is irrelevant, because it is extremely relevant. But the idea of like, these big, heavy, important conversations are best are often best done in person, we hear about cultural relevancy. And people say, well, make sure that you’re, you know, if you have to have a tough conversation, make sure you’re inviting people into a space or the round table, that there’s food, there’s tea offered, you can serve Bill, thank you so much for coming. And so to take all this cultural knowledge that we have, and they’re like, Yeah, out the window, we’re gonna do this. I think it’s a really interesting part of the challenges that we see. And I think, you know, I feel unvalued there I was there somebody else was saying, not to say it now. Oh, I have to say it now, when they talk about, okay, when I talk about the cloistering of of certain cohorts of people, it’s not service providers who are clustered, it’s a lot of public sector officials. You can’t you can’t see them in community. We have of course, like activity monitors. And I said to to one of our IRC offs where you have to come out July 2022, we can’t we can’t come to communities in July 2022, the danger, the danger with COVID. Like, excuse me, like, We’re here every day. So even those tensions, like it’s so interesting to notice how those filter down and filter out into community and you’re like, what, what do you mean, it’s too dangerous for you to come here. We work here every day. And the clients are here every day. We’re all here every day. And so I think it’s actually gotten a little bit better in the last couple of months, again, very Ontario centric country as Ontario and is sort of in like, okay, like we’re out in the community do now. But it’s been really interesting to notice that how long it’s taken to have that acknowledgement of like, well, our communities tend to be low income people who’ve been working in public facing jobs the whole time. So for an official to say, it’s actually too dangerous for me to look you in the face. But for you to be out working every day, that’s fine. Like that’s, that’s where I feel that this this digital element becomes part of a class stratification that I just don’t see acknowledge widely enough, even though again, i i So to give it a bit another piece of context that I teach University, in addition to this work, I’ve taught at the University of Saskatchewan. So I’ve been in Edmonton teaching to Saskatoon phenomenal. And I’ve also had the opportunity to teach at the Yukon University. So I have students who I’m teaching in Edmonton, they’re joining me from old crow, which is like north of the Arctic Circle, it’s phenomenal. It’s incredible. So those kinds of opportunities to connect are amazing. But I fear that technology is used as a shield in much the same way that like, actually consent forms are used as a shield of like, I’m so terribly sorry, you do have to do with this one very, very specific way for me to help you. And then it becomes like, well, then I guess like the the most difficult 40% of clients, you’re never going to have to help, because they can’t, they can’t get there. And so I worry that it’s used as like another layer to keep clients as separate as possible from public sector officials, because they don’t have to, because the clients can’t figure out how to jump over all hoops, because they don’t have that skill set, then public sector officials ultimately don’t worry about it. And this is not beauty to newcomers, I had an opportunity to talk one of our municipal communities, they had done a community survey. And they were like, Well, we did the Community Survey. And this is what we learned. And I was like, well, you only deliver it in English. And it’s a survey. So like, not my clients filled it out. And you could see that they were like, she wasn’t supposed to bring that up. Like why did you say that? But now that’s on the record? Well, so anyway, there’s lots of there’s lots of lots of challenges that we’re continuing to see to experience. But yeah, if it were to be like a single kind of pinpoint to it, that cloistering really troubles me and I want to see I want to see representatives of the sector, representatives of the government in community. And to me the fact that like that it’s not consistently done that way is is a challenge. It’s a conceptual challenge to see.

Marco Campana 34:39
I wonder, has it ever really been done? Like what you’re describing, for example of community surveys and public officials coming out into those smaller communities? I mean, my sense is that that that’s not really necessarily new. So So I have a big question one that’s probably quite unfair, but is essentially so what do we we’re moving ahead with this notion of a hybrid model the language around it from some places like IRC See is, you know, yeah, it’s, it’s problematic. But it’s but it’s happening. And it can be quite positive, as you’ve you yourself have acknowledged and describe where it’s appropriate. It can, it can be a game changer, you have these kids coming in from different places that they’ve accessing a service they may not have been able to access otherwise. But of course, they have to have all of those below the iceberg things in place in order to do that. We know that. So moving forward, we’re, you know, I see us like a seven year vision, because the next big call for proposals is 2425. And then the one after that will be in like, 2029, where we as a sector are defining because it’s five year grants, right, yeah, contribution agreements, we as a sector are evolving towards something that is somewhat inevitable because society is moving that way business and work and government. And with all the struggles that are part of it, how do we make sure we do it in a way that is newcomer centric, that is community centric, that is that we don’t drop people off? Who, once again, it’s not something we do well, right? Because we drop people off constantly. That’s just part of how we, we do things in our society, people are constantly, you know, left behind, whether it’s a class stratification, whether it’s racism, whether it’s gender, whatever you want to talk about, we do that really effectively. Right? But you know, we have this moment some people talk about of the, you know, we’ve realized digital inclusion, but to do that, we have to solve all of these other problems, which excetera, etc. So, I’m long winded, I apologize. I did poli sci as well. So it is fine. Don’t worry about it. So I guess one of the questions is like moving forward, a lot of the stuff you’re bringing up is kind of under the radar of the conversation, and we need to bring it above to make sure it’s at every table. And in every conversation. What is a what is an appropriate kind of model moving forward for us as a sector to be thinking about when we’re talking about hybrid and digitization? In? And I know, you’ve talked about a bunch of things, I’m not gonna be able to tease out, but I’m just curious. I’m sure you’ve thought about this. Yeah. What do we need to be doing as a sector moving forward?

Lisa DeGara 36:58
So I think it’s a real I think it’s a really, really good question. And my my sense is, there are like, and again, I know, I’m coming off a little bit like a Luddite. Like, I’m anti tech. I’m really

Marco Campana 37:07
Oh, like, I know, I want to that’s why I said like you’re you constantly pepper your examples with. And I do this for 30 hours a week online. And I think it’s club noise. I think that what you’re talking about is you’re an advocate for the people who are potentially going to be left behind. Yes. Right. And so how do we do digital inclusion by design?

Lisa DeGara 37:23
Absolutely. And I think there’s sort of two elements to this, the first one I’d like, again, I appreciate you flagging that bit of language, because I would completely reverse it is the first thing, in my view. So much of the really critical work of settlement is relationship based. We have I understand that they’re supposed to be like, I guess on paper, it’s like you conduct you know, we did the seven iron nose. And then we released the President’s community. In reality, we have some clients as well, we’ve been working two and a half years, like, certainly, as long as I’ve been here, and I’m sure there are some clients we’ll work with, you know, forever, like, my vision is like, we work with people until they don’t work with us anymore. And guess what, we’re supposed to be charming, they never will stop. So that’s fine. But then the big challenge that I see on that end is if it’s about relationship building, there’s a role for digital things, because in the same way that there’s a role of telephone, we can speak to people we can connect with people. But in person, I believe it has to be an in person service that is digitally enhanced. So because we have people who are scattered throughout the province, that there are tremendous distances from each other one of the families we support in Glendon, Alberta population 400. He’s the only newcomer youth at his high school. So when we have one of our youth groups that connects online, it’s an opportunity for him to you know, without having to drive 90 minutes to the nearest gathering of people who speak the same language as him, you can connect online, you can have that. So that vision of digital inclusion as how can we enhance relationships, using the technologies that our fingertips bad, I think is a tremendous benefit. If there is a real and genuine desire to have things be digital focused, then I think it has to be okay, so who’s given them laptops? Okay, so who’s paying for the internet? Okay, so who’s doing the training? Because I noticed very often and like in digital education, there’s a lot of discussion about the myth of the digital natives, which I think is a fantastic piece of stuff. You hear a lot of times like, oh, well, kids under the age of 12, like there was on that iPad, there was on that Nintendo Switch, they must be really, really good at technology. And one of the things that’s been observed in academic studies is that’s not the case actually, being really good at using one of these. Something that has a touch interface, the user experience is intended for ease. It’s also intended for stickiness, so that like you remain on the platform as long as possible. There’s a really significant difference between a kid like watching YouTube videos for nine hours straight, and being able to fill out a government form and I think that it’s been mushed together in the thinking people like oh, no, it’s easy. Once you know how to do the phone, if anything, once you know how to do you know easy things or like things for pleasure, you can do all these difficult things. And when I think about meaningful digital inclusion that I wanted, okay, so how are we actually budgeting for this teasing this out making this part of the work? When I had the application to do digital literacy training like online, in the summer of 2021, it was really interesting to note and to speak with people about what they were struggling with how they were having difficulties that like they could want to, for example, one of our clients like she could send an email, but she could never reply, like the idea of having threaded replies was kind of beyond her, which I thought was really interesting, because my grandfather, who was also a refugee refugee from Ukraine, and Ukraine, Hungary, everything about Ukraine uses refugee from Hungary, when he used the internet at the age of 80. Plus, he also had the same problem. He could write emails, but he couldn’t do threaded replies. And it made me think about like, the kind of cognitive scaffolding the cognitive structuring we really need to do in order to build people up on these digital skills. So if the vision is, and well, in one second, if the vision is we have to have digitally modulated everything that I will say, okay, so how much money are you going to put towards this? Are you going to give somebody with your PR card, you’re going to give them a Chromebook, like, because otherwise this is not going to work? I think similarly to this, we noticed that there are a lot of challenges in our rural communities for overbuilt communities. And a lot of it is because the vision of settlement just doesn’t align with the population demographics that we serve in reality. So like the classic one that I use, and I bring this up all the time. And I can see people get uncomfortable with this what it is, like in Swiss in K to 12, we’re supposed to serve children who are permanent residents, like they have PR numbers they’ve come with their parents or parents or PR. In reality, probably one in three of the children that we serve, are on an under 18 student visa while their parent is on work visa. And so technically, those children are ineligible to receive services, spoiler warning, we serve them every single day. And often those children are the highest need to have the highest things. But like if we can’t even acknowledge, oh, yeah, there’s a huge newcomer cohort, including children, including people with disabilities, including very, very vulnerable people that are not even intentionally captured by settlement services. Like we can do this, you know, laptops only digital only, you know, scan this QR code to talk to your settlement worker, we can do all that. But the reality is that the pool of people who will ultimately be served by the services will will shrink, it will continue to shrink. I am lay awake at night thinking about the you know, this idea of having 500,000 permanent residents by 2025. I’m number one, because the cu ea T issue I just I’m just gonna take I’m gonna hop on board for one second, since I have people in Riyadh, then we’re gonna get this, I get this message out. So I went to Pathways to Prosperity conference in Ottawa, Ontario, just couple weeks ago in November, wonderful conference really enjoyed myself. The keynote speaker was minister Fraser, Mr. Fraser said something I said to get about third row I was late. So I had to sit at the front desk sitting in the third row. And I was like making direct eye contact with him. And so she said in his speech, you know, the Ukrainian situation is very different than the Afghan. When I speak to Afghans, they say, you know, the country’s lost to the Taliban, there’s no way I can ever return. When I speak to the Ukrainians. All of them have told me Oh, we all want to go home. And so I was sitting in the third row like, no, no, no, no, no, that’s not sure. So what we currently have on the table is 700,000 People who’ve come into Canada, we’ve applied to come into Canada 150,000 More, you have 700,000 people. The only criteria is can you demonstrate Ukrainian nationality. That’s it. And as people are coming in, we’re already seeing some of these issues. We have again, a bifurcation people who are living in large cities key Vanessa, etc. Who can like they’ve applied for everything online already. They know how to do it, they’re doing great. And then we notice, interestingly, rural people, people living in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk, etc. Really see the theater of war, for whom the phone is really hard. Getting a SIM card is really hard. Getting healthcare is really hard. All these things are a really big challenge. And so when I think about this idea of this many permanent residents and on the other question is the third question they asked after work can I live is we had called permanent resident, I’d like to be primitivism. When can I become a permanent resident? Please, please, please Canada, I’ve come from the war in Ukraine. I really like to be a permanent resident. And I’ve put a lot of questions through and like, obviously, no answer. This is not a question that people want to deal with at the moment. It’s a real shame for me and for them, especially. But what I think about that is like, there is a pathway that’s already been pre designed, even if it hasn’t been acknowledged yet of like, fantastic, you speak. You speak Ukrainian speak German, you’ve got pretty good English CLB four or five, we can get you into work, we can get you going. You already know how to use a computer, we can already get you into a white collar job like pretty easily. And so that cohort of people is gonna go shooting upstream Canada and will will confirm and this will be fine. What I worry about a lot, interestingly, is the same cohort of people where we continuously challenge people who have come from rural environments who are less likely to have higher education were less likely to be fluent in their second language, and don’t have digital literacy skills overwhelmingly. So where do they go what happens to them they’re the people who are the least mobile least able to advocate on their own behalf and at least able to enter into these higher paid and higher compensated jobs. What happens then? So um, you know, when I think about these shoes like the 50,000 foot view the plan for 2025 this u EA T again, my hair is so great under the black die like this is the most stressful thing. We’re also charged in settlement hotel for Edmonton. Every day, every day of crisis every single day, we had a lady who showed up yesterday, she doesn’t have health care yet she got kidney stones, what are we supposed to do with that? You know, so these are, these are big crises. So when I think about these huge scale crises, and then under the under the surface, we have all of these people who are really, really grappling on the edges of function in Canada. And it all clusters together, lack of digital literacy skills, low income, limited education, they all kind of enter a cyclone together. And so if we digitize everything, if we make it digital, first, we will continue to shove those people see the edges. And I will continue to be irritating to senior officials in meetings and being like, what are we doing about this? And they’ll be like, please stop inviting Lisa Jane to meetings. So it’s something it’s something that worries me a lot. And I think that subtext to bring that subtext into the text, I think, has been the mission of our small centers group. We’re always talking to different municipalities, provincial government, federal government about these things. But where do we go from here? How do we support these people, if the model is going to continue to be easiest for people for whom things are easiest, and that can give us that stagnant? Good.

Marco Campana 46:10
I see it as the title of the podcast episode.

Lisa DeGara 46:13
So that’s, that’s a really tough thing. And I wish I had, I wish I had a good working solution. And I wished truly, that this was a context for which more technology would improve the situation I have for almost all my life in such a believer in that I wouldn’t be a functional human being without the Internet. Like if I had to choose, you know, giving up anything internet would be the last thing I would give up. So how do we like, if there were a technology solution, I would love to begin to implement it. And maybe I don’t know, maybe it’s Starlink. We don’t really want to endorse Elon Musk these days. But maybe a starling, I don’t know. But like to use to, to jump off the Elon Musk example. It’s kind of the Twitter paradox. Like people who are on Twitter, think Twitter is the most important thing in the world. People who are not on Twitter have literally no idea what you’re talking about. And that bifurcation and division, I see it all the time. And I think it kind of neatly ties a lot of these issues into a bow. If you’re hyper literate, if you like to read and write for fun. You are in such a different strata than so many of the people that I work with every day. So if you are at this level, then you’re like, oh my god, did you hear what he said about ha? Like, no, because people have to work 18 hours like this is this. So how do we how do we overcome that paradox of like, this is very easy for government, this is very easy. For professionals, it’s very easy for people who are in white collar jobs, how do we make sure that those people break through from that and see what’s happening for everyone who hasn’t been able to enter that circle? Who hasn’t been able to eat at that table? And if you come up with a solution that please let me know, because I would love to implement it immediately.

Marco Campana 47:47
Yeah, no, I mean, the importance of you saying that is is kind of is grounded in the recognition that we’ve never been able to do that for any other issue related to inclusion. So why would we suddenly expect to do it for digital, that that requires all of those other, those other realizations to actually be realized and be be be be, be dealt with in some meaningful way? Right. And I think that for me, you know, there is the broader issue of digital inclusion, which must be connected to other other, other to inclusion, so you know, period. And then there’s the reality of, you know, what you’re describing, which I think is really important is to many people see hybrid as digital first, instead of either or right instinct of meeting the client, where they’re on and providing the service that they need, and where you can realize efficiencies that might reach a scalable population of people, including people who we’ve never served before, because they don’t feel they need settlement services, or they, you know, they could never come, they never were interested in coming in person, there’s a whole opportunity structure there. But then there’s also the opportunity of with those efficiencies, you can actually take the time to serve people who require more time. So you have more more vulnerabilities who have more, more, you know, for lack of a better word, multitudes of challenges, right? That, that you need to spend that time to deal with not just the ins and your out kind of thing, but the case management, the actual supports, and the things that as you’re describing, I hear this from every Swiss program, you know, you don’t just provide settlement when you’re a Swiss worker, you doing all of those things that you’re describing, you’re suddenly the intermediary for a conversation about autism, because you’re the one that the client trusts, and then we’ll come to the meeting because of you. That’s a very different expectation than is a funded expectation, for example, and it’s like you described these are all the things that you know, other duties as assigned kind of thing right, as required. And that that, that funders don’t necessarily even realize are happening in a lot of cases. So this has been just, you know, I we could go on for hours, and maybe we’ll come back and do a version two, but this is Oh, it’s such an importantly rich conversation. I think that we constantly need to be grounding ourselves in the realities of of the work that we’re doing, the people we’re working with. So so that the people who are kind of creating the policy and divisions are not running away with something that that, you know, that seems like a dream, but is not reality based whatsoever.

Lisa DeGara 50:10
Absolutely. I think, you know, from the policy perspective, from the political science perspective, it’s clear when a decision is being made on a on an expense basis, and when a decision is being made on an efficacy basis. And I think that there are things that worked beautifully online, and thank goodness, we’re gonna continue to do them. And like I, if I, if it weren’t, for the time that things happen with the pandemic, I wouldn’t be able to connect with my team as I do, because they live in communities throughout the province, we’re able to have this provincial model, because we live in a digitally enabled world. And that’s terrific. But I think it’s that idea of as things accelerate, we need to make sure that the people who are most in need of service because there’s no real, there’s really no other way to put it, the people who are most in need of service are able to access that service. And the reality is like, let’s suppose that everything goes the way that it’s intended to, and I’m sure that it will, because that’s how things work. We have in my office here. So like we’re in act fairly community, like a large building, we’re in like, sort of the the downtown core of Edmonton. And we have a room in our building called the resource room, which had, I think, seven or eight desktop computers, that obviously was closed for a lot of COVID, because we had like skeleton staff in person, but now it’s open again, if all the services have to be done digitally, because this is what IRCC has deemed to be appropriate, what’s gonna happen is those people are going to be in that computer lab. And we’re gonna have a waiting list on the room. But there’s going to be somebody who’s like, here’s how you guide the mouse and click the thing and get so like, I just always want that to be kind of front and center acknowledged, because like, they can make proclamations that this is, you know, we tested, tested this with everybody at our auto sales office, and they all loved it. And you’re like, I’m so happy for you. Because that’s what that’s ultimately what will happen is that we will expand the resource library into another room, we’ll have you know, eight or nine more desktop computers, hydrobiologia desktop computers, because nobody can use a computer at their house. And so I flagged that because I when you can feel that an idea has been sort of developed, developed by a focus group of white collar professionals, then you have to say that hold on, like flag on the play. I don’t, I don’t think that this is going to land. And I would, I would also, maybe, and this is maybe like an another unrelated thing, but like with this myth of the digital native, like maybe if this is how we’re going to be delivering all government services, like let’s bring back computers class, like we used to have computers class. Now they don’t even bother because they’re like, oh, all children know how to use iPads. So therefore they can, I don’t even know what like there’s, there’s this weird lack of a jump between like child uses iPad, and like all children will become coders question. Like, there’s this this middle, this middle ground, which is overwhelmingly developed by internet as leisure internet as, like fun. And then you’re like, so how do we bridge that gap? When people haven’t been doing that? How do we how do we develop on it and bridge that gap? I would love to, to, you know, I would love for that to be part of the thinking because I think it is really critically important. And if people don’t have digital skills, it’s very hard for them to function. But I think to assume that people have digital skills, and then to deliver the services accordingly is not the solution. If if if the vision is everything has to be digital, as much as possible, then like let’s put the funding it I want to have digital literacy training provided by the government of Canada in 172 different languages, and if they can provide that, then they will have a conversation.

Marco Campana 53:20
Yeah, and I mean, every agency needs a digital navigator, that person who helps staff but also the clients to you know, access those 16 new computers that you’ve got, onboarding people into onto online courses, you know, and supporting them and being that sort of first triage of tech support. We need your you know, it requires it requires a significant kind of investment and not just one and done, but long term. Right? This this whole, the shift to digital may have efficiencies, but but it’s not, you know, you know, cost agnostic, its age requires a ton of, it’s expensive, and it’s long term expensive. It’s constantly expensive, but you know, yeah, and to do it right, at least and to be

Lisa DeGara 53:55
honest, sorry, I could feel I could feel you were winding down. And then it was like,

Marco Campana 53:59
No, it’s okay. It’s okay. It’s this is, you know, I want to keep this to a reasonable listen for people in terms of time. But this is really, really useful. So I am going to wind it down. And to say that, you know, there’s, there’s so much here, I want to continue to explore, I’m so glad we were able to connect, because I think this is a conversation and you know, your perspective is one that is there in the sector consultations and the resources, but not significantly enough. And I think the way you’re articulating it is something that everybody and I know frontline workers are articulating, but they’re not always listened to, you know, within the organization, let alone by policymakers. And I think that there’s something like the realities of that those stark realities, including in urban centers, where there are just people who, who are not going to be able to do this, or have so many challenges or needs that they you know, the person is really the only approach and for me, I’ve always thought of that as that’s perfectly acceptable as part of a hybrid model. But increasingly I’m seeing that kind of language that suggest digital first at the expense of in person and that’s not the right way to go you know, it’s it’s simply can’t be in I think we have to have this conversation to get sort of back on track. And to make sure that we’re we’re focusing on actual newcomer centric models which require that both and approach, and both of those to be invested in significantly, which is another conversational challenge we’ll have as the CO post COVID, belt tightening starts to happen.

Lisa DeGara 55:20
100% 100%, it’s, I’m gonna say, I’ll just put it, put it on the record, it’s gonna be more expensive to do all this digital stuff. So please don’t like, it will be more expensive. And I think if we say that, then maybe he’ll be like, Oh, I’ll have another thing. But, ya know,

Marco Campana 55:37
my take is that if it’s more expensive, that’s fine. And we should invest in because everywhere else that’s happening, and we can’t allow ourselves to fall behind in particular, you know, we’re working with people who are going to be going into those spaces. So I think it’s money, it’s money well spent. It’s an investment that needs to happen, but it needs to be done well, and with with, you know, in an inclusive way, that doesn’t negate the other side of the non technical

Lisa DeGara 55:57
100% 100%. And again, you know, thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate the chance to chat about all of this. And I think I’m always I’m always truly happy to upset the applecart which of course, in this case is a double metaphor, because you could do that as Macronix. Always happy to to discuss these things. Because I think the more we, the more explicit we can be, the more we can say things, then the more effective we can be in really beginning to address these issues. So yeah, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate the chance to shop digital.

Marco Campana 56:29
Oh, no, no, thank you for what a great conversation. I appreciate it. And we will we will circle back and version 2.0 of this will come I’m sure. Absolutely. Thanks so much.

Lisa DeGara 56:38
Thank you so much.

Marco Campana 56:40
Thanks so much for listening. I hope you found this episode interesting and useful for you and your work. You can find more podcast episodes, wherever you listen to your podcasts are also on my site@markopolos.org I appreciate you listening and if you have any tips, suggestions, ideas or want to be interviewed or know someone who wants to be interviewed, please drop me a line through my website, or marco@marcopolis.org Thanks again

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