Investing and Innovating to bridge socio-economic divides
One in five Canadian children live in poverty. There are 235,000 Canadians experiencing homelessness and one in eight Canadian households struggling to put food on the table. Thousands of youth will age out of foster case this year and be on their own for the first time. Millions of Canadians do not have a primary health care provider.
Social and economic barriers are complex: there is no one-size fits all approach to bridge these barriers and support vulnerable Canadians. Yet, when looking at this challenge, there are two things I know to be true: all humans value connection, and technology enables connection. Let’s start there.
Technology has the power to connect us all, but only if we all have access to it. At our core, TELUS believes that Canada is only as strong as its communities, which is why we are steadfastly committed to leveraging technology to help strengthen communities and ensure no Canadian, regardless of their socio-economic status or geographic location, is left behind.
With 5G on the horizon, we are on the precipice of unprecedented technological innovation and the possibilities for supporting communities to drive improved health, social and economic outcomes for all Canadians are endless.
Take the TELUS portfolio of Connecting for Good initiatives for example. Our life-changing programs provide TELUS-subsidized access to the technologies that underpin the success of so many Canadians at risk of being left behind in our digital society.
TELUS Internet for Good currently offers 80,000 low-income families access to low-cost, high-speed Internet service and a computer, as well as digital literacy training and TELUS Wise support to help them participate safely in our digital world. This number will shortly increase to 200,000 as the next phase of the program rolls out. These resources will connect underserved families to their community and to the tools that characterize today’s world. From searching for affordable housing to educational resources, every family deserves to be connected, regardless of economic status.
Through TELUS Mobility for Good, we are offering 20,000 young people ageing out of foster care a fully subsidized cell phone and data plan at no cost, as well as training and tools to participate safely in our digital world. For youth leaving foster care, a phone is often their lifeline. The Mobility for Good program allows them to build credit, access educational apps and websites, find education and job opportunities, and stay in communication with their critical support networks, when they are on their own for the first time.
TELUS Health for Good is removing many of the barriers Canadians living on the streets face in receiving medical care and re-connecting thousands of patients to the public healthcare system. We will have nine mobile health clinics operating by the end of 2019 (with more to come in 2020), and we have already recorded over 20,000 patient visits with some of the most vulnerable and chronically underserviced Canadians since the program’s inception in 2014. TELUS’ fully-connected mobile health clinics provide essential primary medical care to this significantly marginalized population, including establishing electronic health records.
Speaking of electronic health records, TELUS is the leading provider of electronic medical records connecting physicians and pharmacists so they can provide better care across the healthcare continuum; secure access to patient files and detailed patient medical history helps to ensure more continuity of care.
According to Statistics Canada, today, more than five million Canadians are without a primary care physician. We believe that by placing patients at the centre of care and empowering them to manage their own healthcare, we can help deliver better health outcomes, for less money spent. Importantly, using technology, we can also shift the focus from the treatment of disease to the prevention of illness.
In March 2019, we launched the Babylon by TELUS Health virtual care service nationally. Delivered through a free smartphone app, Canadians can check their symptoms with the AI-powered Symptom Checker, and in BC, video consultations with a locally-licensed doctor are covered under the provincial MSP and available seven days a week including evenings, weekends, and holidays. This is a huge step forward in the evolution of how Canadians currently access healthcare.
Technology is also playing a significant role in emerging, sustainable agriculture practices. TELUS is committed to building a world that is safe and sustainable for future generations. By leveraging technology innovation and artificial intelligence, we are helping farmers and ranchers produce greater yields for the growing global population.
At TELUS, we understand the power of technology to bridge social and economic divides. We operate on the principles of social capitalism and we believe corporations have a responsibility to make social capitalism a standard business practice. Bringing this technology to all Canadians is core to who we are and remains a top priority, and that is why since 2000, TELUS has invested $175 billion to connect Canadians to the people, resources and information that make their lives better.
We are a technology company, yes. We are a technology company using our network to enable remarkable human outcomes for all Canadians.
Jill Schnarr is vice president corporate citizenship with TELUS and a featured guest on December 5 edition of Before the Bell: Canada’s Innovation Path Forward.