Last week Industry Minister Tony Clement unveiled the government’s much-anticipated Digital Economy Strategy consultation. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the consultation is slated to run for two months and includes an online forum, face-to-face meetings, and a 40-page document that sets out key areas of concern. Five areas for discussion are identified: capacity to innovate, building a world-class digital infrastructure, growing the ICT industry, creating digital content, and building digital skills.
Skeptics will argue that the consultation is long overdue or perhaps even comes too late. Canada has inarguably lost considerable ground in comparison with many other countries around the world that were quicker to identify and implement digital strategies. While the delays have been marked by a gradual hollowing-out of the Canadian tech sector and sliding global rankings on network and wireless connectivity, Clement has firmly established himself as the most committed Industry Minister on digital issues since John Manley in the late 1990s.
Prioritizing digital issues is a first step toward remedying the situation, but a decade worth of policy neglect will not be solved overnight. Despite lingering doubts about whether the government is listening – many Canadians fear that last summer’s copyright consultation may be largely ignored – those concerned with Canada’s digital future can ill-afford to stay silent on the sidelines. I hope to address some of the substantive questions raised by the consultation in a future column, but the more immediate concern are two unasked questions that cut across all issues – who will lead the strategy and how will the government pay for it.