Detailed Research Project Description

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Research Objectives

The overarching goal of the Community Wireless Infrastructure Research Project (CWIRP) project is to address the gap in our understanding of the development, benefits and challenges of public, community-based ICT infrastructure, in order to support both the management, planning and decision-making activities of practitioners and the policy making activities of governments. Through a series of case studies and more broad-based studies we will systematically document and assess the various models, best practices and benefits of public ICT infrastructure provision in Canada. Among the research questions potentially to be explored are the following: 

  • What is the rationale for publicly-owned and/or controlled ICT infrastructure?

  • What examples of public ICT infrastructure exist in Canada today?

  • What are the different models and best practices of public ICT infrastructure in terms of deployment, technology choice and innovation, investment, governance, adoption and use?

  • What are the public benefits of community-based/public ICT infrastructure provision?

  • What public policies and supports are necessary to promote and sustain public ICT infrastructure?

In addition to exploring these research questions, CWIRP aims at a broader set of objectives:

  • To continue the previous work of the applicants in establishing the nascent field of community networking as a research and teaching area in Canada and worldwide;

  • To enhance and empower public ICT infrastructure practitioners and organizations by documenting and validating achievements and best practices and by analyzing case studies in order to reinforce their decision making and problem-solving capacity;

  • To promote the sharing of knowledge, resources and expertise between university researchers, community organizations, and government personnel with an interest in ICT infrastructure;

  • To influence the development of government policies, programs and funding priorities with regards to public, community-based ICT infrastructure.

Program of Research

The project will include a number of research elements, including:

  • in-depth, site-specific case studies focusing on public/community ICT infrastructure initiatives;

  • broader thematic studies addressing cross-cutting, conceptual and policy issues;

  • integrative knowledge distillation activities aimed at framing the case studies and broader studies in the context of the six priority research issues identified by Infrastructure Canada's Peer Reviewed Research Studies program.

Case Studies

The foundation of CWIRP's research program will be a coordinated series of in-depth case studies at the sites of 4 community partners. Each community partner, in partnership with a university-based researcher, will participate in a case study of their site focusing on a number of major areas of interest while highlighting their own activities and particularities. The following lists each of our case studies, with the assigned CWIRP investigator indicated in parenthesis:

  • Keewaytinook Okimakanak / K-Net, (Clement)

  • Wireless Nomad, (Clement)

  • Île Sans Fil (ISF) (Crow)

  • Fred e-Zone (Middleton)

Case studies have been chosen on the basis of their distinctiveness as examples of community-based ICT infrastructure deployment, representing a variety of community settings (remote and urban), access technology (satellite and terrestrial broadband, wireless 'hotspot' and 'mesh' networks, etc.), and organizational forms (tribal council service organization, cooperative, grassroots volunteer, municipal government). Each case site will be examined and compared in terms of the following areas of concern:

  • access infrastructure and technology choices, ie. existing carriage facilities, network architecture etc., factors determining their use and success, and the implications of emerging technologies, e.g. open source software, WiMax;

  • ownership and funding mechanisms, e.g. municipal utility vs community cooperative vs public/private partnership;

  • governance, i.e. management structure, level of institutionalization, and civic consultation and engagement;

  • applications, i.e. the kinds of applications, such as tele-health, e-learning, geographical information systems (GIS), and e-consultation tools, supported;

  • adoption and use, i.e. rates and character of public ICT infrastructure adoption and use by communities;

  • impacts of public ICT infrastructure on communities in terms of economic development, growth and competitiveness, community learning, social cohesion, civic participation, and health;

  • government policies and programs, i.e. the role played by government policies and programs in the development of the site (e.g. connectivity programs and funding for community-based ICT initiatives, telecommunications policy and regulation, wireless spectrum management, etc.)

Each of the four case studies will document and characterize the individual sites according to the areas listed above, in order to facilitate comparison across them. Along with a broader survey of existing Canadian and international research, the case studies will contribute to developing a richer understanding of the scope of public ICT infrastructure initiatives in Canada and abroad, of the diversity of existing models of community ICT infrastructure deployment, and of the advantages and disadvantages associated with each.


CWIRP is supported by Infrastructure Canada