Voting for Canada’s digital future

A week from now, Canada will wake to a new government and there are certain to be changes impacting the information and communications technology and services sector. We already know that there will be a new Minister of Industry, since James Moore is not seeking re-election.

We do not yet know who will be Prime Minister, or whether we will have a minority or majority government.

A couple months ago, I wrote about “Building a digital platform“, providing some of the elements that I would be looking for as parties released their vision for how they would lead the country.

Will broadband for low-income households become an issue? Net neutrality?

What about a review of Canada’s Anti-Spam Laws?

Telemarketing continues to bother Canadians – and robo-calls from politicians are not likely going to be a welcome addition to Canadians’ dinner time interuptions. You have to love the idea that politicians exempted themselves from many of the more onerous provisions of the do not call regime.

Will any party commit to studying the impact and cost effectiveness of these laws?

A month later, I followed up with “A digital agenda for Canada“, listing the kinds of programs that I thought should find their way into party platforms:

  • Inclusiveness: Which political parties will recognize the need to get low-income households online? There are solutions for connecting rural and remote regions, but the bigger issue is that of affordability, regardless of geography. As frequent readers know, my personal priority is to ensure all school aged kids have access to a connected home computer.
  • Skills development: ICTC – the Information and Communications Technology Council – has launched a project in partnership with Microsoft Canada to develop a national digital talent strategy, seeking to ensure that Canada will have skilled talent to drive innovation and competitiveness, as entrepreneurs or as part of the workforce.
  • e-Government: What kinds of efficiencies can be derived from an effective e-Government strategy, including e-Health, distance education and delivery of other government services?
  • Digital economic policy: An expert panel should reviewing legislation and policy to ensure consistency with a drive to have Canadians benefit from and lead in the development of a digital economy. Canada is long overdue for an overall Telecom Policy review; the last report was delivered in 2006 [which called for a review to be held every 5 years -we are coming up on 10 years]. The last review pre-dated the AWS spectrum auction [that led to the creation of WIND Mobile, and the mobile operations of Videotron and Eastlink], CASL [Canada’s Anti-Spam Law], copyright reform, digital surveillance, Digital Canada 150 and major changes to policy and regulation emanating from the CRTC [such as Talk TV].

The major parties have now released their platforms and they all disappoint from a digital perspective.

The Conservatives mention keywords, such as “digital”, “internet” and “broadband”, but there are no surprises in the platform; from an ICT perspective, we can expect a continuation of the past few years and with token funding for further rural broadband expansion.

The NDP also use all three keywords, but continue to refer to the “digital divide” in the same sentence as rural broadband expansion; of the three parties, one might have thought that the NDP would pick up on the need to increase digital access for low income Canadians.

The Liberals don’t use the terms “broadband” or “internet” at all, but “digital” is used twice: to refer to improving the delivery of government services; and, in discussing access to open data.

I won’t add further commentary or indicate any preferences. I encourage you to follow the links provided above and explore the policies and plans for each of the parties. After you do so, be sure to go out and vote!

Together with all industry stakeholders, I am looking forward to working with the new Minister of Industry and the department to help create a more digitally inclusive Canada, enabling improved digital literacy among all of us, with legislation and policies that sensitive to privacy and security issues, as we continue the journey to transforming our digital economy.

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