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Funding cancellation may mean less free access to computers

Leah Rodgers uses a computer at Parkinson Recreation Centre. A federal funding cut to the Community Access Program will affect public computers Parkinson Recreation Centre and 10 other Kelowna locations. - Douglas Farrow / Contributor
Leah Rodgers uses a computer at Parkinson Recreation Centre. A federal funding cut to the Community Access Program will affect public computers Parkinson Recreation Centre and 10 other Kelowna locations.
— image credit: Douglas Farrow / Contributor

Several agencies in the Okanagan are realizing that they will be impacted by the federal government's cancellation of funding for the Community Access Program.

The program had existed since 1995 and its purpose was to bring computer and Internet technologies to Canadians across the country.

The program was ideal for those who wished to access the Internet; however, could not afford to pay for access in their own homes.

Federal funding for the Community Access Program ended on March 31.

Lesley Dieno, executive director of Okanagan Regional Library, said that the decision to cut funding will result in a "noticeable impact."

"Our CAP grants come to a little bit more than $80,000 a year. We have 21 CAP sites in our branches; the CAP grants are around $4,000 per site," said Dieno.

"It will be undoubtedly more difficult for the board. I think we can manage for the remainder of this year, but the challenge will be in next year's budget because the board will have to take the lack of that $80,000 into account and decide how they're going to respond."

Dieno said that the federal government's decision won't likely result in the elimination of computers throughout Central Okanagan libraries.

"I don't think it means that all the computers in the library will disappear because we spend way more than $80,000—it's not like the CAP grant covers our (full) computer cost."

According to Dieno, most of the libraries have waiting areas to use the computers due to high demand.

She said that the board will have to decide what they will do to respond to the situation at their next meeting in May.

A total of 11 locations will be impacted in Kelowna, three of which are libraries. Community Access Program funding cuts will affect a total of 50 sites in the Okanagan.

Another Kelowna location that will be affected is Parkinson Recreation Centre.

According to Lori Angus, administration and finance manager with Recreation and Cultural Services, the funding cut came as a "surprise."

"We got the email about the funding on Tuesday; we haven't had a chance to wrap our heads around what that's going to mean for us," said Angus.

Angus said that they will have funding for the computers for the rest of 2012; however, the computer's long term fate is unknown at this point.

"We need to spend some time in 2012 evaluating the program and start to make plans and determine what we can do to move forward.

"We understand the program is important and we'll do what we can to see what options are available for us."

Federal funding will continue for Community Access Program Youth Initiative, which provides young Canadians, ages 15 to 30, with information and communications technology related work experience that facilitates their transition to the labour market.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

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