In search of a Canadian digital action plan

Geist-48X68.jpgPosted by Michael Geist
In recent months, there has been growing support for a national digital strategy. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission explicitly identified the need for a strategy in its new media decision as have prominent leaders in the technology, telecommunications, broadcast, and education communities. The issue now appears to be resonating within government. Industry Minister Tony Clement has convened a digital strategy summit later this month, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore has emphasized the importance of online platforms, and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has pledged to support a national strategy.
My weekly technology column notes that the need for a national strategy stems from the realization that Canada is rapidly falling behind much of the developed world on digital issues. The gradual hollowing out of the Canadian technology sector (one-time giants such as Nortel, JDS, Corel, Newbridge Networks, and Entrust are all either gone or unrecognizable today), the absence of a strategy to digitize Canadian content, the inability of the CRTC to make sense of its governing legislation as it applies to the Internet, and the plummeting rankings of Canadian high-speed Internet and wireless services all point to a problem that can no longer be ignored.
Industry watchers point to the late 1990s as the last time Canadian digital policy was driven by a cohesive plan. Led by then-Industry Minister John Manley, Canada introduced privacy and e-commerce legislation, online consumer protections, and supported high-speed networks that rivaled the best in the world. Other countries took note and today many — Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Germany, and France among them — have developed their own digital strategies.
Most strategies identify high-level principles such as fostering consumer confidence or ensuring broadband access. Given that Canada is late to the game, it should think about taking a different tack. Since broad principles rarely generate action, the government should forego the conventional strategy and move directly to an action plan with specific deliverables. Click here to read more of Michael's post.

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