Tuesday December 18, 2012
Several months ago in a speech to the Economic Club of Canada,
Industry Minister Christian Paradis promised to unveil a Canadian
digital economy strategy by the end of the year. Unless there is a
late December surprise, however, 2012 will end in the same manner as
every other year - with Canada as one of the only developed
economies without a clear plan for success in the online
The digital economy strategy file - dubbed the Penske file due to
years of "work" with no results - now stands an unequivocal failure.
Despite a public consultation on the issue and numerous models to
emulate, the government has puzzlingly been unable to develop a
coherent vision for Canada’s digital future.
The government could have pointed to any number of developments -
copyright reform, anti-spam legislation, research tax credit
changes, a pro-consumer approach at the Canadian Radio-television
and Telecommunications Commission, the forthcoming spectrum auction,
and reversal of the hated Internet billing dispute - as evidence
that it has been active on the issue. Yet without a clear map for
the future, the efforts are understandably perceived to be a policy
mish-mash without a clear target.
How to fix the digital economy strategy mess in a fiscal environment
where there is little, if any, money available to pay for it?
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) points to a tax-free digital economy strategy that would have six components.
TagsShareTuesday December 18, 2012
Wednesday June 06, 2012
Industry Minister Christian Paradis put a timeline on the "Penske File"
to deliver a Canadian digital economy strategy by the end of the year.
TagsShareWednesday June 06, 2012
Tuesday May 08, 2012
The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has released
on e-commerce in Canada (I appeared before the committee last October).
The report has sixteen recommendations, but none are particularly
innovative or surprising. They include emphasizing e-commerce in the
forthcoming digital economy strategy, increasing affordability of
Internet service, bringing anti-spam legislation into force, and
(oddly) the need for ISPs to provide 24/7 tech support. The report also
includes an inaccurate
to a completed digital economy strategy, though it actually points only
to a consultation document. The NDP offers a supplementary opinion that
provides more interesting recommendations including setting aside
proceeds from the spectrum auction to enhance broadband deployment,
resuming Statistics Canada research on e-commerce, and establishing a
digital literacy task force.
TagsShareTuesday May 08, 2012
Monday November 28, 2011
in the Toronto Star on November 27, 2011 as Digital Economy Strategy
has Become Federal Government’s "Penske File"
Earlier this month, Industry Minister Christian Paradis held a press
conference to launch the Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program,
which will provide $80 million to small and medium sized businesses to
integrate digital technologies. Paradis described the program as an
important component of the government's digital economy strategy.
While the program may create some useful incentives for technology
adoption, it was Paradis' reference to a digital economy strategy that
attracted the attention of policy watchers. The digital economy
strategy has emerged as the government's "Penske File", the source of
considerable discussion and much "work" but thus far few tangible
results (for non-Seinfeld watchers, the Penske file has become
synonymous for a non-existent work project).
Most of Canada's trading partners have had digital economy strategies
in place for years, using the policies to set goals for connectivity,
guide investments in networks and digital infrastructure, as well as
establish legal frameworks to provide privacy protection and enhance
consumer confidence in electronic commerce.
Canada has lagged behind with no real policy direction. In May 2010,
then-Industry Minister Tony Clement conducted a national consultation
on the issue, yet 18 months later, there is still no strategy in sight.
There has admittedly been an election and a cabinet shuffle, but as
Canada dithers, other countries move ahead with a broad range of
Countries such as Japan, Germany, and Australia have all established
ambitious targets for broadband connectivity, employing a mix of public
dollars and regulatory incentives with the goal of establishing
universal access to affordable, fast connectivity. The Canadian
Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has set a target of
universal access to 5 Mbps broadband by 2015, but a report last week
indicated that hundreds of thousands of Canadian households currently
only have access to much slower speeds.
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission recently
teamed up with cable and technology companies to launch
Connect-to-Compete, which promises to bring computers and Internet
access to low-income households. The program includes a
commitment from the cable companies to offer to $10 a month broadband
Internet access to homes with children that are eligible for free
school lunches. Moreover, Microsoft has committed to offering low-cost
personal computers and Morgan Stanley has pledged to develop a
microfinance lending program for community-based financial institutions.
Digital strategies are not limited fostering greater Internet access.
In Europe, the European Commission recently adopted a recommendation on
digitization that will lead to investing billions in digitization
initiatives. The strategy includes a plan to make 30 million works
freely available online as well as develop legal frameworks to
facilitate greater access to online materials.
Ireland has focused on copyright reform as a means to jumpstart its
digital economy. Unlike Canada, which has emphasized restrictive
digital locks, Richard Bruton, the Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise
and Innovation, has promised to remove barriers to digital innovation
by considering greater copyright flexibility through the adoption of a
fair use provision.
The net effect of these initiatives is that other countries have
stopped talking about digital economy strategies and actually
introduced and implemented them. In Canada, the opposite is true.
Plans for the forthcoming spectrum auction, which holds the promise of
injecting new competition into the wireless and mobile broadband
markets, remains shrouded in secrecy. Legislative initiatives such as
new privacy rules are stuck in neutral in the House of Commons.
Anti-spam laws are in limbo as the government may cave to lobbying
pressure to water down tough new penalties.
Few would dispute the need for a national digital economy strategy, yet
in the spirit of Seinfeld, the Canadian approach appears to have turned
the matter into a strategy about nothing.
Michael Geist holds the Canada
Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of
Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can reached at email@example.com or online
TagsShareMonday November 28, 2011