Encouraging signals for a national digital strategy

There are encouraging signs for the imminent release of Canada’s national digital strategy found in elements of the 2014 Budget tabled today by the Government.

Some may have thought that the digital strategy would be released either within or concurrent to the Budget. I didn’t subscribe to this view. Such a move would result in too little attention being given to the digital strategy, given the focus on so many other elements of the budget.

Instead, it is possible – maybe even likely – that the Budget lays the groundwork for elements of a digital strategy that could be released during the coming fiscal year.

As I wrote earlier this week, the original consultation asked 24 questions under 6 broad headings, perhaps creating the table of contents for what could guide activities under the responsibilities of 3 ministers (Industry; Heritage; and, 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

Reading the Budget through such a lens, one can see pieces of the Digital Strategy starting to come together.

For example, here is a different way of reading the budget, aligned with these headings:

  • A number of relevant programs are found in a section of the Budget that looks at “Fostering Job Creation, Innovation and Trade” [Innovation Using Digital Technologies]
  • There is $305M ear-marked for a renewed rural and northern broadband infrastructure program [Digital Infrastructure]
  • An Open Data Institute being established through the Canadian Digital Media Network [Canada’s Digital Content]
  • Computers for Schools is getting renewed, with $36M in funding over 4 years, enabling it to get more computers into the hands of students and providing digital skills internships for hundreds of kids each year as equipment is refurbished for re-use. An entire section of the Budget is called “Training the Workforce of Tomorrow” [Building Digital Skills]
  • Over the next 5 years, the government expects to see nearly universal access to internet speeds of 5 Mbps, indicating the first of many targets for a made-in-Canada digital strategy [Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage]

The framework for a national digital strategy is taking shape.

At The 2014 Canadian Telecom Summit (June 16-18 at Toronto Congress Centre), we will be looking at “The Digitization of Canada’s Economy: A report card on progress, a prescription for the future.” Have you registered yet?

Update: [February 12, 9:00 am]
Michael Geist shares a similar perspective in his post today.

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