Where is Canada’s plan for the digital age?

February 5th, 2010 by Barry Sookman Leave a reply »

Earlier this week, MP Marc Garneau published an op-ed in the National Post asking “Where is Canada’s plan for the digital age?” A good question.

He pointed out that “a renewed vision is required for a digital economy”, that the “digital economy will be a defining part of our economy”, that technology “is changing our world” and that we must “evolve if we hope to prosper”.

Mr. Garneau is clearly right. Technology is changing our world and we either have to adapt or suffer the consequences. Just look at the changes the Internet, search engines, smart phones, iPods, and the myriad other innovative technologies have brought to every segment of our lives. 

Mr Garneau is also right that we have a lot to learn from what our trading partners have been doing. The UK with its Digital Britain agenda,is miles ahead of us in identifying the issues, researching the options, and developing and implementing policy proposals. We cannot sit idly by while these countries develop the technical and legal infrastructure to address the complex challenges of the 21st century.

Last month Industry Minister Tony Clement also noted in an interview with Canwest that ‘”We have to have a strategy for the digital economy in Canada…for doing more things online.’” He also announced in a speech to ITAC on February 2 that beginning this spring,  he intends to launch the next phase in building out Canada’s strategy for the digital economy. He says it will be “A made-in-Canada strategy. One which will stand the test of time and carry Canada forward — not just next year, but for the decade to come.”

In his ITAC speech, Minister Clement also noted that “Updating copyright law is important. In the past decade, digital technology has evolved dramatically, changing the way in which Canadians work, live and get involved both locally and globally. Copyright laws are critical to the digital economy in Canada. They give creators and consumers the tools they need to engage with confidence in the digital marketplace. Updated copyright laws will also help foster creativity, innovation and economic growth.

But, why the long wait for the strategy? In his article Mr. Garneau asks  “where is the government on various issues including ‘on issues of net neutrality and intellectual property?”

In the IP area, there have been countless government promises for reform. Parliamentary subcommittees have recommended it. Canadian business has been clamouring for it. Yet we seem to be standing still while our EU and other neighbors are moving forward. We cannot slip farther behind in those areas that will give Canadians opportunities for self realization and prosperity.

Todays headlines highlighted Canada’s poor showings in productivity, a factor that is estimated to cost each Canadian 30k. We need a strategy that will foster innovation and creativity in Canada. A digital strategy, as Mr Garneau pointed out, has to be part of that.

Kudos to Mr Garneau for taking up this challenge.

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