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Report looks at gaps in key data for Canadian rural areas

<p>A panoramic view of Gaultois, the south coast outport with no roads.</p>
A panoramic view of Gaultois, the south coast outport with no roads. (Rannie Gillis photo) - Contributed

"Status of Rural Canada 2019" released at Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation’s annual conference in St. John's

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The quality of life of rural residents across the country is directly affected by challenges with data, a national report has found.

In many rural areas, data is inaccessible or doesn’t exist, the document states. When dependable data is collected, analyzed and put to use, it can have an impact at any scale.

The report, “State of Rural Canada (SORC) 2019,” was released Wednesday as part of the North Atlantic Forum and Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation’s annual conference at Memorial University’s Signal Hill campus in St. John’s.

Sarah Minnes, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan, stated in a news release that this year’s report focuses on information gaps — why they exist, why they are a problem, and what they imply for the future. The report also outlines innovative approaches communities and researchers are taking to fill the gaps.

“Our focus on rural data gaps came out of discussions with (Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation) members, practitioners and researchers who were finding it difficult to tackle challenges and plan for the future due to data gaps in rural areas,” Minnes stated.

“Just as much as it looks at challenges in data gaps, it also provides various solutions that we’ve come across in our work.”

Minnes says the report emphasizes that data is more than numbers, and the report highlights issues with both quantitative and qualitative data. 

The report also stresses the importance of supporting local efforts, and keeping in mind the end user of data.

Gaps in data have real-world implications, the document notes: it can be challenging for a small community to prove that a certain problem exists if the relevant information focuses only on larger centres.

The news release notes that various researchers, professors, practitioners and community workers contributed to the report. 

Minnes stated one of the aims of the study is to help policymakers and researchers better understand and work with rural regions and people.

“I think the report is important for policymakers as they determine next steps, in terms of planning for rural resilience and sustainability,” Minnes stated. “I hope it lets people know that they’re not alone: a practitioner can read it, see themselves in it and learn about a few interesting lessons learned. Hopefully it spurs innovation.”

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