Tuesday September 04, 2012
in the Toronto Star on September 2, 2012 as Canada Can't Afford to
Wait Any Longer for Digital Economy Strategy
Industry Minister Christian Paradis paid a visit to the Economic
Club of Canada in Toronto last week to deliver a speech focused on
the digital economy. As has been the case for months, the
speech was short on specifics but filled with platitudes about a
forthcoming digital economy strategy that "challenges our
innovators" and "drives new technology."
Yet despite promises of a strategy by the end of the year, the issue
remains the government's "Penske File", a source of regular speeches
and much "work" but few tangible results (for non-Seinfeld watchers,
the Penske file is a reference to a non-existent work
project). In fact, with Paradis telling attendees that the
government’s role " is to give our best and brightest the
opportunities they need to succeed and then get out of the way" the
strategy may be about as ambitious as the character George Costanza
was on the Seinfeld show.
Canadians have waited years for a digital economy strategy. Paradis
should dispense with the well-worn cliches and opt for an ambitious
plan that generates genuine excitement and broad public support.
If Canada is to re-emerge as a digital economy leader, the starting
point should be universal computer ownership combined with
affordable broadband Internet access. The government has supported
extending broadband access to rural communities in recent years, but
there still remain thousands of Canadians who do not have access to
affordable high-speed Internet services. Reliance on the private
sector has failed to provide universal affordable access and the
government should acknowledge the need for the public funds to
address the issue.
Mere affordable access is not enough, however. As millions of
Canadian students head back to school this week, it is worth
remembering that many do not have computers in their homes. The
solution lies in a digital economy strategy that brings together the
technology and telecommunications sector to develop a plan that
ensures universal access to computers and broadband Internet by
Ensuring Canadians have the necessary access is only the first step
in the strategy. They must also have the skills and digital literacy
to use the technology effectively. This will require a concerted
effort at working with provincial and local groups to provide the
necessary knowledge and tools. These programs should be integrated
into schools and available more broadly within local communities.
Once Canadians are online, the government can’t get out of the way
until it establishes the legal framework that fosters public
confidence in e-commerce and the online environment. Paradis should
bring the languishing anti-spam legislation into effect by
finalizing regulations that have been missing-in-action for the past
year and introduce tough privacy reforms that mandate disclosure of
security breaches backed by penalties for non-compliance.
Government also can’t get out of the way until it has established a
framework that fosters a fiercely competitive Canadian digital
economy. Paradis told the Economic Club that "we need to take more
risks, think more creatively and act more boldly to claim our place
in the global economy."
Exhorting business to take risks isn’t going to make Canada a
digital economy leader, however. Creating a competitive market will,
which necessitates removing foreign investment restrictions in the
telecom and broadcast sectors, rejecting persistent calls to
"regulate the Internet", enforcing net neutrality regulations, and
using the forthcoming spectrum auction to encourage new entrants and
There will be additional elements to the strategy - government
transitioning to electronic delivery of services, creating a digital
economy leader around the cabinet table, and finding ways to pay for
funded programs stand out - but after years of delays, Canada needs
fewer speeches on the digital economy and more substance.
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 at www.michaelgeist.ca.
TagsShareTuesday September 04, 2012
Wednesday May 16, 2012
The Wall Streeet Journal's MarketWatch picks
on Canada's missing digital economy strategy, using the Penske File
framing to discuss the failure of Industry Minister Christian Paradis
to lead on the file.
TagsShareWednesday May 16, 2012
Tuesday March 20, 2012
The lack of progress on the Canadian digital economy strategy has been
a source of frustration for many as the still-unreleased strategy has
been largely missing in action. Late last year I dubbed
the government's Penske File, a reference to the Seinfeld episode
involving a non-existent work project. While Canada is still without a
comprehensive strategy, elements have begun to emerge in recent weeks.
On the legislative and policy front, Bill C-11 has passed the
committee stage and seems likely to race toward royal assent by the
summer, last week's unveiling of the telecom policy
(including policies on the forthcoming spectrum auction and foreign
ownership) puts to rest a major issue associated with the digital
economy strategy, the CRTC recently published
its final anti-spam regulations with Industry Canada expected to follow
with theirs shortly, the open
government initiative has been making considerable progress, and
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan told
the House of Commons on Thursday that Bill C-12 (the PIPEDA reform
bill) may finally move forward next week.
Industry Minister Christian Paradis yesterday took another positive
step by convening a federal
- provincial ministerial meeting
on the digital economy.
TagsShareTuesday March 20, 2012
Tuesday November 29, 2011
Later today, Industry Minister Christian Paradis will deliver a speech
that will provide an update on the government's digital economy
strategy. The speech is likely to point to the recently launched
Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program, talk
about moving forward with copyright and privacy legislation, describe
work on spectrum, and indicate
that a decision has still not been made on the removal of foreign
investment restrictions. In other words, basically repackage several
earlier speeches on the same issue.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto
Star version, homepage
version) focuses on the lack of movement on the digital economy
strategy, arguing that it 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).
TagsShareTuesday November 29, 2011
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