Improving access to high-speed Internet is good for the profession

Connecting more communities to high-speed internet will create new opportunities for the accounting profession (Getty Images/vorDa)

It’s well established that the future CPA will need to be tech-savvy, but without a strong internet connection, work and study opportunities for potential candidates can be severely impacted.

Rural areas are known for their limited broadband access, but that is starting to change. In May 2021, the Province of Manitoba announced plans to connect over 125,000 rural households. In July 2021, the governments of Canada and Ontario pledged to do the same for more than 435,000 homes in Eastern Ontario by the end of this year. And, in September 2021, broadband provider Xplornet launched its first standalone 5G network, which will bring high-speed access to more than 250 rural communities across the country by 2022.

Experts see this increased access to broadband networks as a gateway to an improved accounting profession. Creating equal access will benefit people living within these communities, as well as the profession as a whole, as more people will be able to access e-learning programs and work remotely for top companies.

ACCESS TO EDUCATION

In the case of CPA education, continuing to offer online learning remains a priority. As CPA Sandy Lyons, Principal, Grant Thornton Limited, points out, “Increased access will encourage learning and encourage credentialing.

Online learning allows people to access classes and lectures in their spare time, Lyons says. It also allows them to avoid certain fixed costs, such as paying for transportation to campus. “This creates great opportunities for our practitioners and those who want to enter the profession, with cost not being a barrier to entry,” he says.

In remote communities, 34% of households indicated that price is a barrier to accessing a high-speed connection at home. “Not everyone can afford a $700 satellite dish and $125 a month for Starlink,” says CPA Chad Davis, partner and founder of virtual accounting firm LiveCA. “It is also a real economic decision. So if we talk about commitment and encouragement, you will only have financially stable people who will become CPAs.

Right now, says Lyons, “Indigenous communities are greatly impacted by infrastructure that doesn’t exist. This makes it difficult to study, participate in e-commerce and business-to-business engagement, he says. Even hosting a blog can be difficult.

And, after earning an initial designation, Lyons says there are still “micro-certifications” to consider with career and professional development requirements and the need to advance skills on a regular basis. “We need to look at how that communication works because we’re not doing bricks and mortar learning anymore.”

EXPANDED WORK OPTIONS

The pandemic has changed the way people think about work, with remote jobs and hybrid models likely to stick around. This, combined with wider Internet access, will have a strong impact on the future of the profession as employment opportunities are created and the number of potential candidates increases.

For example, Davis says that since the start of the pandemic, her company has seen an increase in job applicants as remote work is now socially accepted. He also saw more virtual businesses springing up, adding that some companies are competing for virtual employees by offering perks like extra internet fees.

“The general move toward remote work is opening up conversations in people’s minds that may not have happened before the pandemic,” he says. “Any investment like [increased broadband access] will only increase and multiply this advantage. It’s a cumulative effect of changing the way people think about work and removing barriers to internet connectivity. »

AT THE SERVICE OF THE PUBLIC

Increasing broadband access opens up opportunities not only for CPAs, but also for those they serve.

“It has a big impact in public practice,” Lyons says. As fixed overhead such as rent and other payments are reduced, this has a trickle down effect, resulting in lower service charges. “The more broadband we have and the more accessibility we have in remote communities, the more our economy can grow.”

Also, as more and more people have adapted to working remotely, they have started to seek additional online services from accountants.

“Our clients are really starting to wonder what services a CPA firm can offer them,” Lyons says, adding that many organizations that embrace a permanent hybrid work model are also meeting the needs of the public.

“The CPA of tomorrow is an exciting person,” says Lyons. “Technology now allows you to communicate with people anywhere, if you have access to it.”

LOOK AHEAD

Find out how rural internet could be the key to Canada’s economic future. Learn about the skills CPAs need as the profession evolves. Also learn about the different ways to start a career in the public sector and how to prepare for a career in big data.

Norma A. Roth