Paul Stacey

Canada’s Digital Economy Consultation – a big picture response

This post summarizes input I submitted to Canada’s federal government Digital Economy Consultation.

June 29, 2010

The Honourable Tony Clement
Minister of Industry
Government of Canada

Re: Digital Economy Consultation

In 2008 I was part of a digital media visioning and working group formed by the Cultural Human Resources Council. This group met throughout 2008 and published a Digital Media Content Creation Technology Roadmap in January 2009.

The Digital Media Content Creation Technology Roadmap report identifies six major technology projects and corresponding skills development initiatives, which need to happen over the next five years for Canada’s multi-billion dollar digital technology industry to be competitive in the global market.

The six technology projects are:
1. Open, fast, and affordable networks/access with quality of service
2. Tools for compression to optimize bandwidth use
3. Collaborative creation network environments and tools
4. Mobile network and device technologies to distribute, create and present content/services (Open network)
5. Digital media usability research network
6. Centralized interoperable mechanism for micro-transactions

I encourage the government to implement the technology steps, support the collaborations suggested, and take the skills development steps recommended in the Digital Media Content Creation Technology Roadmap report.

This project brought together leaders in the Digital Media industry from across the country representing:
– Mobile Content
– Digital Film and Animation
– E-Learning (this is the sector I was representing)
– Interactive Entertainment
– Interactive Design & Web 2.0

A research report “New Media Content Creation in Canada – An Overview Report” prepared by Steve Bocska for Industry Canada provided some essential structure and guidance. However, the diversity of sectors and rich range of perspectives and suggestions quickly created complexity. After sitting through a visioning session and some follow-on discussions I created a big picture visual representation of the key areas that need to be bolstered to enhance Canada’s digital economy. (click on image to enlarge)

This diagram identifies policy, research, business, technology, people and markets as main inter-related arteries of Canada’s digital economy. Both digital technology content creation and digital technology delivery are essential components of the industry with creation feeding delivery. A “destination” or overarching national goal for how digital technology will benefit Canada is required. This destination goal ensures that all Canadians benefit from the digital economy not just economically but socially and culturally too.

To advance Canada’s digital economy we need a comprehensive strategy and approach that utilizes policy, research, business, technology, people and markets. Here’s a quick summary of my recommendations:

Recommendation #1 Establish National Goals for Canada’s Digital Economy

  • make Canada the best place to live for digital technology creators
  • establish a public digital green space supporting innovation, linking digital creators & users, and ensuring universal benefits from digital capabilities
  • promote the link between digital media literacy with happiness and prosperity
  • develop a nationally pervasive digital innovation culture
  • broaden perspective of digital economy beyond culture to include all sectors
  • support and facilitate digital businesses domestically and internationally

Recommendation #2 – Federal digital economy research, policy, support and initiatives are spread across multiple ministries. This creates a fractured front for industry groups to deal with resulting in a lack of cohesion, coordination and impact. Establish a Ministry of Digital Technology.

Recommendation #3: While its important to protect intellectual property and generate economic worth from digital development there is a significant and growing movement around open public sharing, distribution, and reuse. Canada needs to have a balanced approach to copyright and openness. Ensure all publicly funded research and resources developed for education are licensed for open sharing and reuse.

Recommendation #4: Consider tax credits for the digital economy.

Recommendation #5: Establish policy and regulations around digital economy foreign ownership.

Recommendation #6: Support infrastructure for digital technology distribution that makes bandwidth equally available in rural and urban areas

Recommendation #7: Develop a policy strategy to support businesses in moving digital technology developments from development to commercialization.

Recommendation #8: Provide federal support for international market penetration.

Recommendation #9: Telco control has resulted in expensive wireless and a loss of national control of bandwidth. Establish policy and regulations that ensure bandwidth is a national public good and reduce the cost of wireless.

Recommendation #9: Research on the digital economy needs to substantially increase. Major ongoing research is needed on market trends and business models. Research should be done through academic and industry collaborations. Digital technology centres of excellence should be created. A research knowledge base needs to be built and benchmarks on the industry established.

Recommendation #10: Support digital economy businesses with market opportunity definition and investment & funding. Work with broadcasters, carriers, and providers to establish local and international sales support and systems for e-commerce micropayments.

Rcommendation #11: Develop a technology view and inventory of Canada’s digital economy. Include software, hardware, middleware and infrastructure. Define distribute channels, devices and methods of distribution including streamed and interactive.

Recommendation #12: Develop a human resource strategy to support growth and development of the digital economy. Define digital economy end users including demographics and individual vs. shared or mass digital media users.

Recommendation #13: Define and analyze local, national and international digital economy markets.

Recommendation #14: Define segments of Canada’s digital economy including e-learning, mobile, interactive design, digital film & animation, interactive entertainment, music, and other emerging technologies.

Paul Stacey

1 Comment

After submitting this input to the Digital Economy consultation process I was contacted by Rebecca Schild an undergraduate researcher from the University of Toronto. Rebecca is doing a thesis examining the ways in which the Internet is impacting public participation in government policy making.

She’s focusing her investigation on the Digital Economy Consultation—in which she also participated. Rebecca asked if I’d be willing to share my experience and thoughts about participating in the consultation process. We agreed to Skype. In advance Rebecca provided me with questions she is using to shape her research. The questions focus on the Internet itself as the medium for participation as opposed to the content of the submission itself. Here are her questions:

  1. How did you hear out about the online consultation? Why were you interested in participating?
  2. What did you contribute to the online consultation? (idea forum/a formal submission?)
    1. How was your submission drafted?
    2. What was the process like, and how did you participate?
  3. Have you had any external/community-based communication regarding the consultation outside of the online platform provided?
    1. Did it enhance or improve the overall consultation experience?
  4. If applicable –how do you, or your organization, work to influence policy? (research, advocacy, lobbying, etc)
    1. Do you regularly use the internet to participate in policy communities or to influence policy in anyway? If so—how?
    2. Did the online consultation enable you to influence policy/engage with government in a way you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to?
  5. Did the “online” nature of consultation in anyway…
    1. encourage you to participate in the policy process more so than you otherwise would have?
    2. make contacts that you otherwise wouldn’t have?
  6. Do you feel that there any particular advantages or disadvantages associated with the public consultation being held exclusively online?
    1. How do you think this consultation would have compared if it was held offline?
    2. In your opinion, would there be there any foreseeable advantages/disadvantages to having had the consultation offline?
  7. How do you think the government will use all the input received? Do you think that your contributions will taken into account? Why or why not?
  8. Do you feel that the internet could have been used differently/more effectively to engage the public? If so—how?
  9. Personally, what do you feel your biggest take away from participating in the consultation was?
  10. Overall…
    1. what would you like to see the digital economy strategy encompass?
    2. How do you suspect it will take shape in the end?

I won’t, with this message, attempt to give my replies to all these questions. However, I will say that I see this web-based consultation as a new form of democracy that allows for the individual voice to be heard directly, unflitered by my consitituency representative or some other group. What will be interesting will be to see the extent to which the government uses the feedback they receive. My reading of the responses to the Digital Economy consultation are that the feedback they’ve received differs substantively from the Conservative government’s current policies. I expect Rebecca’s research will shed some interesting light on this practice and I expect we’ll see a lot more of this kind of consultation going forward.

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