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Defining Canada’s Missing Digital Economy Strategy

The concept of Canada having an ‘innovation gap’ might seem like an abstract concept

Recently we formed the ‘Canadian Cloud Best Practices Council‘, to define a strategy for how Canada can become a leader in the emerging field of Cloud Computing.

Central to this will be the development and publication of policies for ‘Digital Economy’ leadership.

This is a crucial piece of the puzzle, because as the article Digital Nation 2011 from Backbone Magazine highlights, Canada is still missing this essential policy.

Map of Canada

Image via Wikipedia

Backbone reports that Canada “almost published” this document, as it has been a promised deliverable of a year-long consultation and review from Industry Canada. Minister Tony Clements was expected to announce it at this years Canada 3.0 conference, but he cancelled his appearance and the stratey never emerged either.

It’s such an important step to take because it will provide a foundation to stem the ongoing decline of Canada as a country of innovation. As Backbone magazine and many other sources report, Canada is slipping downwards across many global indicators, such as ranking 14th out of 17 peer countries for innovation, dead last in technology exchange among 15 peer countries, and 19th out of 139 economies for capacity for innovation.

The concept of Canada having an ‘innovation gap’ might seem like an abstract concept, a theoritical issue that doesn’t actually affect you at a practical or personal level.

However consider how important healthcare is to you and your family. A lack of technology investment and innovation can have a real impact in these types of areas, such as this Globe news piece, which reports how Canada trails the USA in their adoption of new EMR (Electronic Medical Record) technology that is using barcoding to eliminate medication errors.

Due to a major eHealth investment program the USA now has 55 hospitals reporting in at level 7 capability, whereas Canada has none, a symptom of this lacking innovation policy.

Skills for Innovation – Building an Innovation Nation

Quickly building a comprehensive policy set for a Digital Economy strategy isn’t as difficult as you might think, especially if you adopt a best practices approach. This means you can leverage and reuse the key ideas already being pioneered by other countries, and adapt them to your own unique situation.

Doing so provides a great context for the role of the Cloud Council, which is comparable to the UK’s tech strategy board, a keynote team that defined the link between Cloud Computing and national innovation capacity:

“with Cloud building on next generation broadband with high definition video and also more revolutionary applications. These will include tele-presence, allowing for much more flexible working patterns, e-healthcare in the home and for small businesses the increasing benefits of access to cloud computing which substantially cuts costs and allows much more rapid product and service innovation.”

Putting these structures in place will deliver Canada the platform required to accelerate progress in this area, through building a framework for modernizing skills. The Conference Board of Canada was another organization reporting on Canada’s innovation decline, highlighting they’re scoring a ‘D’ for innovation, and in this new initiative are defining what innovation skills are required to turn the situation around.

CIPS, one of Canada’s main ICT skills groups, captured this perfectly in their own digital innovation strategy document, where they described the essential role these modern new skills would play in directly addressing the innovation challenge:

“”Among the many components of a successful digital strategy for the ICT sector, one important element should be support for ICT companies during the product development phase, as well as during upgrades or new releases- specifically, assistance with the definition of user requirements to facilitate commercialization.”

As Backbone reported Canadian business investment per employee in ICT is less than half that of businesses in the USA, so it’s crucial these programs are developed and rolled out.

Infrastructure for Innovation – Platforms for Growth

The UK’s Tech Strategy board also touches on the types of technology advances that should be pioneered, and the resulting deployment of infrastructure it should drive.

Industry Canada has already identified the right key areas, such as the need for ‘Trusted Cloud infrastructure‘, and the right component parts for this such as ‘Digital Identities’, however as the relevant section highlights, the last update was in 2004!

In comparison via the Tech board the UK provided competitive funding to advance this capability and in the USA they’re pioneering ‘Trusted Identities in Cyberspace‘.

These and other key developments will provide foundations for the evolution of the Cloud, and with them being cutting edge progress being pioneered today, Canada has every opportunity to become a leader in the field.

Indeed the best explanation of what role Identity technologies play is provided by another Canadian Dick Hardt, in this famous Identity 2.0 presentation that achieved global viral popularity.The enormous, worldwide growth potential for them is effectively explained in this article from the Telco 2.0 forum, which explains what it means to telco providers.

What this highlights is the core, most important point about what this strategy offers for Canada. These developments are beneficial to both operational efficiency as well as underpinning economic expansion – The Canadian Government can greatly improve their own business processes (eg. social welfare claims) through these technologies, and because all other Governments have the same needs, it would foster a capability that could then be sold internationally too.

Furthermore and most importantly, what this combination of skills and technology will enable is more entrepreneurism. Fundamentally the most important fact to know about Cloud Computing is that it makes launching new e-business ventures more accessible to more people – They can be launched quicker and cheaper than ever before.

How we can accelerate this effect, how we can enable more entrepreneurs to launch more Cloud Ventures, is the heart of our strategy for a Digital Economy.

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