GEO Nova Scotia: Getting Everyone Online
GEO Nova Scotia is a non-profit organization founded in 2022 to coordinate a growing network of partners, working together to ensure people in the province have what they need to access the internet.
GEO Nova Scotia’s near-term goals are:
- Help more people get the technology, internet access, and skills they need to be online;
- Learn as much as we can about how best to deliver that support; and
- Cultivate a broad, multi-sector network of partners to develop and deliver projects and programs that ensure digital inclusion for all.
When the pandemic lockdown hit Nova Scotia in March 2020, having a computer and home internet access became more important than ever, and yet for many it was simply unaffordable.
When service organizations across Dartmouth North got together through the local Between the Bridges network, it was clear they all had the same problem: many of the people they served did not have home internet access or devices, effectively cut-off from everything.
Everyone agreed, a lot of the shift online was not going away, even when the pandemic was over. A long-term, province-wide solution to ensure everyone could get online would eventually have to emerge. In the meantime, people in the community were suffering from their isolation every day. Something had to be done.
The “GEO Project” began within weeks, as a new program of the Public Good Society of Dartmouth, with support from Between the Bridges and additional seed funding from United Way Halifax and Kiwanis Dartmouth.
By the end of the year, with a network of local partners, they distributed 50 refurbished computers including webcams and provided free home internet access to 40 households that couldn’t otherwise afford it.
The model developed to administer the program was a success. Simple and flexible, it shares responsibility among partners in a way that plays to everyone’s strengths, while aiming to make an excellent experience for participants.
“Words cannot convey my feeling of thanks.”
”Before the pandemic, I could access the internet at libraries and other public spaces. It made me feel like a second-class citizen. When that was taken away, I didn’t feel like a citizen at all.”
“I feel like I won the lottery!”
In 2021, with investments from the Province of Nova Scotia and other funders, and generous support from strategic partners, the “GEO Project” became “GEO Nova Scotia”, and 12-month pilot programs were established in HRM, Cape Breton, the Valley, and the South West Shore.
Together, through a network of over 75 Referral Partners, GEO Nova Scotia partners connected over 350 households with one year of free high-speed internet and distributed over 600 devices.
An Evaluation Team led by Cari Patterson is conducting a Developmental Evaluation to the processes, programs, and impacts are being evaluated across all sites.
In March 2022, GEO Nova Scotia was formally registered as a non-profit society, led by an experienced Board of Directors. On April 1, 2022, GEO Nova Scotia founder and Provincial Coordinator Matt Spurway was named Executive Director.
We all belong online.