Canada’s “moon shot” goal – to become a digital nation by 2017

In 2010, the Canada 3.0 Conference brought together nearly 2,000 delegates including cabinet ministers, business leaders, scholars and students to Stratford, Ontario to discuss Canada’s future as a digital society. After a 2-day discussion, a call-to-action was developed: Canada must set an ambitious goal to become a fully digital nation by 2017 – the year we celebrate our country’s 150th birthday. This “moon shot” goal would enable Canadians to do anything online, from anywhere, at a reasonable cost.

I spoke with Ian Wilson, Executive Director at The Stratford Institute (a not-for-profit technology think-tank in Stratford, Ontario) about what it will take to achieve the 2017 “moon shot.” Wilson said that this ambitious goal requires “unprecedented collaboration” from Canada’s government, universities and private sector. He explained that there has been a lot of commitment from these institutions in the past but there has been very little measurable action to date. Wilson described the situation by saying that “vision without implementation is hallucination.”

Wilson told me that “a lot of people in Canada are worried that we are falling behind” in regards to digital leadership on the global stage. He and the other board members at the Stratford Institute aim to act as provocateurs to encourage action at the political level and to stimulate and help the unprecedented collaboration required across government, universities, NGOs and the private sector.

The Call to Action

Canada is lacking a vehicle to mobilize and sustain the efforts of all organizations and individuals concerned about our digital future. We cannot rely on just the technological experts and specialists to resolve the current challenges that we face. Ian Wilson says that in addition to involving the technology sector, we need to “engage businesses, entrepreneurs, and people in the creative arts to take action.” The digital jobs of the future require Canadians with skills that cross all of these sectors.

To inspire action, a participative and inclusive strategy has been developed to engage Canadians in a discussion and get our government mobilized. Ian Wilson outlined some of the key tactics that will help to inspire Canadians to get involved.

Some of these tactics include:

  • A National Digital Video Contest
    The Stratford Institute, along with Canadian Digital Media Network is inviting all Canadians to submit a video that profiles their vision of what Canada will look like in 2017. The video can be a webcam monologue, a presentation, a story or a short film of 5 minutes or less. Select entries will be featured on the Canada 3.0 website (www.canada30.ca) and profiled at the Canada 3.0 venue on May 2 to 4, 2011. Three winning entries will each be awarded a $500 prize to be announced at the Canada 3.0 conference closing celebrations and showcased on the Canada 3.0 website.
  • An Annual “National Digital Report”
    It will be necessary to establish key metrics to assess how Canada, its governments and institutions are doing in advancing toward the “moon shot” goal compared to the rest of the world. The Stratford Institute is currently working on their first annual report that will be released at the Canada 3.0 Conference in May.  They will be asking the Canadian academic, government and private sector community to help provide ideas on what those key metrics and benchmarks should look like (i.e. the percent of public content available online; trends in consumption of paper’; availability of public access to tech in libraries and community centres; technological literacy; access to high speed connections). They will also poll Canadians via a new website to get a reading of attitudes and perspectives on how we’re doing so far. The key metrics and the polling information will be developed through consultation with experts from organizations like the OECD and CRTC.

So, will Canada meet the “moon shot” goal by 2017? Ian Wilson says we can check back in with him at that time to see where we stand. Let us know what you think it will take to get there?

 

Image source: iStockPhoto.com

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