The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is a non-profit organization that manages the .CA domain, Canada’s top-level domain. CIRA is responsible for ensuring the secure and stable operation of the .CA domain and promoting its use to Canadians.
In 1987, Webnames’ very own John Demco, secured the registration of the .CA domain and along with a team of people with the same Canadian pride, managed the assigning and registration of all .CA domains. Once the internet started to experience rapid growth, it became evident that this was a much greater task than what his team could administer. It was decided that a committee needed to be formed where inclusive dialogue from multiple players across the Canadian internet landscape could be heard. Thus, the Canadian Domain Name Consultative Committee (CDNCC) was formed. From there, CIRA was founded in 1998 as a result of the CDNCC’s recommendation for the creation of a private, non-profit, member-based organization with a clear mandate to preserve the .CA domain as a Canadian resource operated and managed by Canadians, for Canadians.
CIRA was launched in November 2000, and it managed 60,000 registrants. Today, CIRA manages over 3 million .CA domains and provides a range of services to help Canadians create and manage their online presence. One of their key priorities is promoting the use of the .CA domain to Canadians. According to CIRA, using a .CA domain can help businesses and organizations build trust with Canadian customers and users, as it demonstrates a commitment to Canada and Canadian values. CIRA also believes that the use of the .CA domain helps to keep Canadian data within Canada and under Canadian privacy laws.
In addition to this, CIRA is also involved in a range of initiatives to promote the growth and development of the Canadian internet landscape. Funds from .CA sales go to their new Net Good program with the goal of leveraging CIRA’s unique position as a trusted steward of the Canadian internet community to create positive social, environmental and economic impacts.
There are five ways that CIRA gives back to Canadians:
- Internet Exchange Points – where they support regional connection hubs that keep traffic inside Canada to make Canadian internet faster, cheaper and more resilient.
- CIRA Canadian Shield – their free cybersecurity service that protects Canadian households against phishing, malware, and other cyberattacks.
- Canadian Internet Governance Forum – where they work with partners to assemble Canada’s leading annual forum on internet policy issues.
- CIRA Internet Performance Test – a tool they developed to measure internet speeds for Canadians and to heat map connectivity in their region.
- CIRA Grant Program – where they invest over $1 million in grants to community-led internet projects across Canada.
CIRA’s Grant Program
CIRA’s grant program is designed to support a wide range of projects, from research to community-based initiatives that advance the organization’s goals. The 2023 program has three priority funding areas: Infrastructure, Online Safety and Policy Engagement. Since 2014, CIRA has provided $10.45 million in funding for 201 projects. In 2023, there is $1.25 million in funding available for Canadian internet projects and each grant applicant can apply for up to $100,000.
While CIRA’s grant program considers applications that benefit all Canadians, they are especially interested in projects that benefit Northern, rural and Indigenous communities, and students (kindergarten all the way to post secondary).
Building A Better Online Canada
CIRA recognizes that the internet has the potential to be a force for good in society, but that it also has its downsides. As such, one of the key objectives of the Net Good grant program is to work towards a better online experience for Canadians. CIRA is committed to supporting initiatives that allow Canadians to build knowledge and protection against threats like misinformation, online scams, privacy intrusion and surveillance, harassment, cyberbullying, hate speech, racism, and gender-based violence.
The online safety arm of CIRA’s grant program has funded a variety of ventures across Canada, including educational programs, awareness campaigns, research studies, and technology projects. Some examples of the initiatives that have been funded in the past are:
- Disinformation & Misinformation Training for University Students
- Cybersafe Islanders
- Black Girls’ Digital Literacy Exposure Workshop Program
- Senior Outreach Computer Tutor Program
- Youth Assembly on Online Safety
- Behdzi Ahda First Nation Digital Communication & Representation Strategy
The online safety grant program is an important initiative that helps promote a safe and secure internet for all Canadians. By supporting organizations that are working towards this goal, CIRA helps to ensure that Canadians can use the internet safely and with confidence.
Advancing Internet Infrastructure
The CIRA funding for infrastructure aims to support projects that will improve the overall stability, performance, and security of the fabric of Canada’s internet systems. This includes projects that address issues such as network congestion, lack of connectivity in remote areas and inadequate security measures. Since one of CIRA’s objectives is to increase the number of Canadians that have access to high-quality and high-performing internet, they will consider funding grants for community-led, community-based projects that contribute infrastructure solutions that are devoted to long-term community development.
CIRA has already funded several infrastructure projects across Canada. For example, in 2022 they awarded a grant to the Takla Lake First Nation located 400 km north of Prince George, BC. The grant will allow the Indigenous community to connect the remainder of Takla Landing homes and buildings to existing coaxial lines, a much needed piece of infrastructure for future growth and development.
Overall, CIRA’s funding for infrastructure projects is an important steppingstone to improve the way Canadians access the internet. Not only does it help ensure citizens have access to reliable and secure connections, it also establishes the capacity for rural, Indigenous and underserviced communities to be able to cultivate the growth of their businesses, educational endeavours, employment opportunities and access to physical and mental health services that may not be readily available.
Supporting Policy Engagement
Through this part of their grant program, CIRA provides funding to non-profit organizations, academic institutions and think tans that are working on projects related to internet policy in Canada. The grants can be used to support a variety of activities, including research, advocacy, public education, and stakeholder engagement.
Funding for Policy Engagement is intended to address a gap in funding for internet policy work in Canada. While there are many organizations working on issues related to the internet, few have the resources to engage in sustained policy advocacy. By providing funding to these groups, CIRA aims to increase the capacity of the Canadian internet policy community and ensure that a broad range of perspectives are represented.
One of the strengths in funding Policy Engagement is its flexibility. The grants are not tied to specific issues or policy positions, allowing organizations to pursue projects that align with their areas of expertise and interest. This approach encourages a diverse range of proposals and ensures that the program is responsive to emerging issues and trends in the internet policy landscape.
Over the years, funding has allowed for research and a landmark report in support of advocacy for increased digital access for low-income communities, the organization of Digital Access Day where non-governmental organizations, different levels of government, educational institutions and the technology sector convene for a national conversation about Canada’s Digital Divide and co-creating a digital roadmap with leaders of First Nations communities to achieve digital equity.
What CIRA Does Not Fund
It is essential to understand what types of projects are not eligible for grant money, therefore it is important to be aware of CIRA’s funding restrictions. The following do not qualify for grant funding:
In addition, non-internet related projects, projects with a commercial or political focus, projects that duplicate existing services, and projects that violate CIRA’s core values will not be considered for funding. By understanding these guidelines, applicants can increase their chances of securing funding for their innovative projects.
Who Is Eligible For Funding?
- Organizations recognized by the Canada Revenue Agency as registered charities
- Not-for-profit organizations
- Academics and researchers affiliated with a Canadian university or college
- Indigenous communities
The organizations above must be based in Canada and the projects must benefit Canadians.
- March 2, 2023 – Application for CIRA grants opens
- April 12, 2023 – Application period closes at 2 pm EST
- July 2023 – Applicants will be informed about the outcome of their application
How Can My Organization Apply?
You can find project requirements, evaluation criteria, information on the eligibility review process, how to prepare your submission, a sample application form, information regarding the decision process, requirements for if you are rewarded a grant, and a sample final report required by CIRA on the grant section of their website.
Once you are ready, you can apply here. Good luck!