Understanding broadband adoption

On the same day that Minister Clement delivered his Digital Economy update, the OECD released its OECD Information Technology Outlook 2010 [pdf, 7.0 MB].

The report has some interesting data that speaks to my theme of the need for Canada to turn its attention to adoption Рencouraging greater digital literacy and understanding the factors that are keeping Canadian homes and businesses from embracing all of the capabilities of the digital economy.

While the usual critics quickly pointed out that Canada has supposedly slipped to 11th place in broadband adoption, I didn’t notice anyone looking at the data itself [xls, 42 KB] and asking serious questions. The most immediate question¬†should¬†be¬†“why is Canada’s broadband data is 3 years old, despite current information being available from the CRTC?”

Interestingly, the use of old data still didn’t keep Canada from a 3rd place standing for Figure 4.3: Business use of broadband [xls, 48 KB]. But we fall to a middling 15th place when looking at businesses that have a website. Business adoption of ICTs should be a real concern. As the OECD found:

Canada is an exception in that it has relatively few businesses reporting online selling compared with those reporting online purchasing.

In his keynote address to the IIC on Monday, Minister Clement reiterated the five areas he considers critical to creating a digital Canada. Two of these deal directly with these issues of adoption:

I know that the best infrastructure, with the highest speeds, is of little use if businesses are not exploiting it. Canadian businesses, large and small, have to adopt technology in order to become more productive, innovative and competitive.

And on this front, we still have work to do. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada has a middling rank in terms of the size of our ICT industry and how rapidly our businesses adopt digital technologies..

Similarly, the Minister observed that Canada needs to do more “to develop a digitally skilled workforce.”

Most encouraging is the upcoming intergovernmental collaboration to address digital economic development. Perhaps this can lead to targeted measures to put computers and broadband connections into every household with school aged children, as you have seen me advocate on these pages in the past [for example, here and here].

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