Drifting aimlessly

On reading a story that said Ottawa rejected Lenovo as a possible suitor for BlackBerry, I tweeted “Didn’t fit national digital strategy” in reply to Greg O’Brien’s comment “How unsurprising.”

I was only partially facetious.

I am convinced that somewhere in Ottawa there must be some kind of an undisclosed national digital strategy.

As millions of dollars were handed out three years ago today, in coordinated events, multiple news releases [such as this one] on Industry Canada’s website indicated “Canada’s Economic Action Plan provided $225 million for the development and implementation of a strategy to extend broadband coverage.”

Development and implementation. We couldn’t have the implementation without the development, could we?

Six months earlier, then Industry Minister Tony Clement said, “Now is the time for the private sector to step up and contribute their ideas for a digital strategy and, when that strategy is in place, to implement the plan.” First you have a plan, then you implement it.

The private sector stepped up at the time and contributed thousands of hours of time, millions of dollars of effort, to contribute their ideas. They bought into the vision.

To date, three Ministers have failed to deliver government’s part of the deal – the promised strategy.

In 2011, the Industry Minister Christian Paradis referred to different elements of the strategy in his remarks to The 2011 Canadian Telecom Summit. He spoke of different elements: encouraging investment, encouraging adoption, building a skilled workforce, growing the ICT sector and developing content. It was as though he was reciting from the table of contents. “Our government considers a digital economy strategy to be one of its most important objectives.”

A year later, in June 2012 at The Canadian Telecom Summit, Minister Paradis said, “We are still developing a Canadian digital economy strategy. And I am committed to delivering it by the end of the year.” That was a year and a half ago.

“As the foundation of our digital economy, it all starts with you — the telecommunications industry. From equipment manufacturers to service providers and from industry associations to consultants, you play an essential role.”

The global digital economy doesn’t wait. While investors have placed multi-billion dollar bets, trying to acquire companies like Mobilicity, Allstream, or BlackBerry or competitors investing in digital spectrum and physical infrastructure, the government has failed to deliver “one of its most important objectives.”

Six months ago, I wrote about “Inconsistent messages; predictable turmoil” saying “The lessons for Ottawa: Set clear objectives. Align activities with the achievement of those objectives. Stop doing things that are contrary to the objectives.”

Three and a half years later, it is time for the Government to “step up” and lead by releasing a coherent, consistent national digital strategy. Jobs and investment dollars are at stake.

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