At long last, signs seem to be pointing toward the imminent release of Canada’s digital strategy. On Tuesday, we’ll be checking the budget to see if there is funding being identified to implement elements of a strategy that is long overdue.
Recall that the public consultation for input into the strategy was launched in May 2010. We were first told to expect the release in the Spring of 2011, but that was been delayed by an election and subsequent cabinet shuffles.
Minister James Moore has now had more than 200 days to settle into his role at the helm of Industry Canada and the timing seems to be right for the government to set out a cohesive and comprehensive plan to guide Canada’s participation in a global digital economy. Minister Moore was part of the original consultation launch in his role as Heritage Minister, so this is file with which he has familiarity.
Recall that the original consultation asked 24 questions under 6 broad headings, creating a table of contents for a document that should guide activities under the responsibilities of 3 ministers (Minister Moore at Industry; Minister Shelly Glover at Heritage; and, Minister Jason Kenney at Employment and Social Development):
- Innovation Using Digital Technologies
- Digital Infrastructure
- Growing the ICT Industry
- Canada’s Digital Content
- Building Digital Skills
- Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage
Five years ago, more than 15 months before the government consultation was launched, I wrote:
It seems that there are lots of studies, but it is harder to find a clear statement of vision for Canada’s digital future. As we invest in measures to jump start job creation, what concrete measures will affirm Canadian leadership in a global digital economy.
Nearly 6 years ago, in my opening remarks at The 2008 Canadian Telecom Summit, I talked about the need to look at universal broadband from the perspective of stimulating consumer demand, not carrier supply. Broadband adoption has stagnated at around the 80% level. For 6 years, too many government programs have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the supply side of the equation, without focusing on targeting those in need of assistance.
What should we be looking for?
In March 2010, I wrote about some principles that Verizon set out to stimulate broadband deployment and increase consumer choice:
- encourage demand by increasing computer ownership, computer skills, digital literacy, and online education;
- incent new uses of the Internet that serve societal needs, such as energy savings, improved education, public safety and better and less expensive healthcare;
- encourage continued innovation and investment to increase the options in networks, services, devices and applications;
- recognize and encourage wireless broadband platforms as important in reaching unserved and rural areas through more efficient tower-siting processes and the identification of additional spectrum;
- government intervention must be technology-neutral and must put choice in the hands of consumers, rather than subsidizing providers directly, targeted precisely to the needed effort.
As we have seen with programs like Rogers’ “Connected for Success“, not all elements of a digital strategy need massive investments by government. Instead, we should be looking for signs of outreach, building partnerships to leverage activities already underway.
In Canada’s strategy for the digital economy, we should be looking for signs of leadership, setting out policies that create the right conditions for investment in digital infrastructure and innovation, encourage expansion in knowledge-based jobs and digital content and ensuring skills development for Canadians to remain competitive as the job market continues to transform.
The 2014 Canadian Telecom Summit, taking place June 16-18 at Toronto Congress Centre, will be looking at “The Digitization of Canada’s Economy: A report card on progress, a prescription for the future”, with a panel hosted by Namir Anani, the president of Canada’s Information & Communications Technology Council. The overall conference theme this year is “Future-proofing Our Place in a Digital World.” Early bird rates for the event are available through the end of February. Have you registered yet?