Tag Archives: Canada

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

Canada’s leadership in technology and innovation relies on brainpower

Brainpower is at the root of Canada’s future success in the digital economy. According to a recent report by the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skillsscreenshot of a brain (CCICT), one of the keys to growing the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) industry in Canada is to attract more skilled professionals to the trade.

The ICT Brainpower Challenge

A lack of awareness of the opportunities available in the industry has caused a decrease in enrolment for ICT-related university programs. The digital economy is caught in a chicken and egg scenario where the industry lacks growth due to a decrease in availability of local talent and young people are not interested in going into ICT-related fields due to a lack of awareness of where the job opportunities exist.

A recent report called Canada: The Goto Country for Brainpower Resources in the Global Digital Economy found that only 9% of boys and 4% of girls in high school currently view ICT-related careers as appealing. The industry is still only roughly 25% comprised of females. The report explained that many young females perceive ICT-related jobs as “geeky, boring desk jobs.”

I spoke with Dave Ticoll, Executive Director of CCICT last week about new initiatives that the CCICT is developing to entice young Canadians at the high school level to learn about all of the exciting careers that are possible in the ICT industry. Ticoll will be speaking at the Canada 3.0 conference (www.canada30.ca) in Stratford, Ontario in May.

Ticoll told me that the brainpower challenge also stems from the current ICT-related technology programs that are available in schools today. He said that there is a “huge misalignment between the skills that we are creating in the post-secondary system and the needs of the digital economy.” For example, the healthcare system cannot find enough Canadians with health informatics skills. In addition, there is a lot of focus being placed on building smart power grids, yet there are very few Canadians with green energy technology skills.

According to Ticoll, we are faced with a conundrum where we now have “jobs without people and people without jobs.” A recent report by the OMDC claimed that there are 2,900 students enrolled in game design programs at Ontario Colleges and Universities. Yet, Ticoll says that “many of those students have to seek work outside of the province or country because the job opportunities don’t match-up with their skills.”

Ticoll told me that there is also a black hole in terms of what the actual job opportunities are in ICT-related fields. He said that “when students in high school go to choose their future careers, they are not able to get access to information about the exciting ICT jobs available to them.” Therefore, they are not aware that they can actually use technology skills to solve business problems and make a change in the world.

The Proposed Solution

The CCICT has been working with Canadian universities and corporations to develop a new undergraduate university program called Business Technology Management (BTM). It is a program designed to improve the quality and quantity of business professionals capable of taking on ICT roles to achieve productivity, innovation, entrepreneurship and competitive advantage for the Canadian digital economy. The BTM program is part of a mandate to increase Canadian ICT-related college and university enrolments by 20% by the year 2017.

In addition, the CCICT plans to implement an ICT job awareness program which involves:

  • An annual ICT national career week which will be held in major cities across Canada
  • A Web 2.0 style “digital jobs of tomorrow hub” where Canadian students can go online to learn about all of the job opportunities in ICT-related fields

Finally, due to the lack of data surrounding the actual size and opportunity of the ICT market in Canada, the CCICT is working on developing a “skills data mart.” This will help to quantify the actual number of jobs in the ICT market, broken down by fields such as healthcare, green energy, business technology and more.

Canada’s slow IPv6 adoption reflects our lagging leadership in digital media innovation

Canada is a world leader in terms of broadband Internet usage and consumption of digital media communications tools like Search, Social Networking andCanadian flag Video. Web research firm comScore was quoted in a recent Globe and Mail article as saying that “Canadians spend 43.5 hours a month online – almost twice the world average of 23.1 hours.” However, when it comes to resolving Internet technology issues like the impending IP address shortage, we are currently sitting in the middle of the pack.

A recent article from TheRecord.com discussed the fact that Canadian ISPs have been slow to collaborate and adopt IPv6 as a resolution for the coming IP address shortage. I spoke with a few industry leaders in this space to find out more about this issue and what it means for the perception of Canada on the global Internet stage.

Hélène Joncas, Chief Strategy Officer at CANARIE, told me that “there just doesn’t seem to be the same sense of urgency in Canada that there has been in other countries to implement IPv6.” The implications for Canada are that if other countries upgrade their IP networks and protocols sooner, we run the risk of Canadian systems not functioning properly with networks and protocols in other jurisdictions. Joncas likened the situation to the “rest of the world developing a new dialing system for their phones while Canada’s phones are still on the old dialing system.”

However, Joncas said that many Canadian businesses and government funded organizations have actually already been slowly adopting IPv6. So, we may not be as far behind as TheRecord.com article suggests. Canarie, for example, is now IPv6 enabled and is working with their Optical Regional Advanced Network partners (ORANs) like Orion and BCNET to get them IPv6 enabled as well. Joncas and other members of CANARIE will discuss the issue further at the Canada 3.0 Conference (www.canada30.ca) on May 2nd to 4th in Stratford, Ontario. Members of the federal and provincial governments will also be on hand to speak about the work that is underway.

Marc Blanchet, President at Viagénie – a consulting company that is working with Canadian ISPs to help them deploy IPv6, is vice-chair of the Canadian ISACC IPv6 task group that was put in place by the Canadian government to resolve the coming IP address shortage. He told me to rest assured that “the government and ISPs are working hard to resolve the issue.”

Blanchet said that big players like the Canadian Internet Registry Authority (CIRA) have already done a lot of work to ensure that domain name owners can get new names over IPv6 already. He explained that “Canada may not have been the pioneers of IPv6 adoption, but we were certainly not the late comers – we’re somewhere in the middle.” Blanchet shared a link to a publicly available report which outlines the awareness of the issue by major Government organizations, industry players and ISPs and their commitment to be completely IPv6 enabled.

He explained that of course ISPs do not want to publicly share all of the information about the IP address shortage solution with the public yet. There is a lot at stake from a competition perspective. However, Canadian ISPs are, in fact, collaborating and now have incentive to resolve the issue. The challenge was that Canadian ISPs were not previously pressed to resolve the issue because there was no financial benefit in doing so.

So, perhaps there may not be as much of a looming “IPocalypse” in Canada as many reporters have chosen to label the situation. However, one might compare this current issue to Canada’s performance at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. Once Canada decided to attempt to “own the podium” and invest in the success of our athletes, we kicked some serious butt and won more gold medals than any other host nation had ever won in the past.

Similarly, as soon as there was incentive to adopt IPv6, Canadian ISPs have jumped on the bandwagon and have made a commitment to fix the problem before it becomes an issue for our economy.

Other countries like Japan incentivized their businesses and ISPs to resolve the issue a lot sooner. Therefore, according to Hélène Joncas, Japan is already 21% IPv6 enabled. She also implied that this is perhaps due to the fact that they may be running out of IP addresses at a much faster rate than in Canada.

Regardless of whether Canada may not be running out of IP addresses as quickly as other countries, we still need to ensure that our networks and protocols work with other countries’ systems. Likewise, we are missing the opportunity to position ourselves as global leaders in technology and digital media innovation. If the Canadian government pressed harder to become a global leader and invested even more in Canadian businesses to “own the technology and digital media innovation podium” then who knows what might be possible?

We’re already leaders in digital media usage. Why not lead in innovation as well?

Image source: iStockPhoto.com