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What Digital Canada 150 says about the government’s IT outlook

Ottawa releases a strategy document that may not have all the details, but could hold some promise for network administrators who need better technology


Canada digital economic strategy

It may sound odd, but Canada’s digital strategy reminds me of learning to surf. Well, I’m not sure I would describe what I was doing as “surfing” but I did manage to get up on the board for a few seconds before flying off and swallowing gallons of seawater. The most helpful piece of advice I got: “Don’t look at where you are, look at where you want to go.”

The government recently presented its Digital Canada 150 plan to “guide Canada’s digital future” by the country’s 150th birthday in 2017. The plan involves connecting 98 per cent of Canadians via high-speed Internet (at 5 Mbps) by 2019 — a rate it says enables ecommerce and high-resolution video, while opening up employment opportunities and distance learning. (This, however, still lags behind many other countries, which have targets of 100 per cent connectivity at higher speeds.)

The government also plans to “optimize the use of publicly owned wireless airwaves to provide Canadians with the access they need on the devices they choose.” This is critical, since global mobile data traffic is projected to increase 13-fold between 2012 and 2017, according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index. It’s unclear, however, how the government will “optimize” this.

The plan also claims that Canada will be “a leader in using digital technologies to interact with Canadians, making it simpler and quicker to access services and information online.” Open data will provide ready access to government data in usable formats, which will “expand public dialogue, stimulate citizen engagement and foster greater cooperation among governments, businesses, academia and individuals.”

Sounds great, but the plan doesn’t really position Canada as a “leader,” since its targets still fall well below many of our peers’. And there isn’t a whole lot of “strategy” in this strategy document — how exactly does the government intend to create “a homegrown open data developer ecosystem in Canada,” for example?

Where the plan might be more effective in the short term is in helping businesses adopt digital technologies. And the feds are, in fact, putting money where their mouth is. Broadband and connectivity projects will be eligible for federal support under the Building Canada Fund. And the Business Development Bank of Canada will allocate an additional $200 million to support small and mid-size businesses with digital technology adoption.

So this is a good time for network administrators — especially those working for SMBs — to look at their needs over the next couple of years and where they might be eligible for financial support.

Digital Canada 150 spends a lot of time outlining the feds’ previous accomplishments. Sure, they may be worthy accomplishments, but we need to stop looking at the wave behind us and instead focus on where we want that wave to take us. Then we have a much better chance of catching that digital wave and riding it all the way to shore.

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