I read with interest that the federal government has finally released its long-awaited Digital Economy Strategy. You can read more about it and the reaction to it on Michael Geist’s blog . So far I have not seen much in the way of the things the Canadian Library Association was calling for in the letter I drafted for them last year:
On behalf of the Canadian Library Association, I am writing to you to urge the Government to begin work as soon as possible on a national digital economy strategy.
There are several opportunities that our Association believes the Government of Canada has to promote access to technology and information and so help Canadians participate in the knowledge economy, thereby contributing to Canada’s prosperity and employment growth.
These opportunities include:
- Ensuring all Canadians have access to affordable, equitable and robust information technology, including:
o high-speed broadband (100 Mbps and up)
o computer equipment, either at home or in a public space
o adaptive technology for those with disabilities
- Ensuring neutrality of Internet traffic so as to encourage a level playing field and favour innovation
- Ensuring all Canadians have the opportunity to develop digital literacy, so that they are prepared to innovate and learn needed skills
- Supporting the transition of cultural industries to a digital environment and stimulating the creation of uniquely Canadian digital content
- Ensuring that access to Canada’s research and innovation and its heritage is widely available and preserved.
It is imperative, given that many countries are surpassing us greatly in these areas, that Canada maintain its international competitiveness (Lyman, Roberts, 2009). According to the United Nations’ Internet Telecommunication Union, Canada ranks 14th in the world for broadband access. It has been demonstrated that efforts to provide broad, ubiquitous access to a knowledge infrastructure have resulted in higher GDP growth in those countries that have made the effort; one study reported that each time a country doubles broadband speed, economic output increases by 0.3% (Ericsson, Chalmers, Little, 2012).
CLA believes it is time for Canada to ensure its share in this success.
CLA would welcome the opportunity to consult further with the Government on this topic and to help find solutions that are right for Canada. We also suggest that the Government consider the country’s libraries as potential partners in delivering online government services as well as computer access.
Why should libraries care about Canada’s digital future? Well, libraries are committed to access to information as a means of ensuring everyone can participate in the knowledge economy. We believe that the opportunities afforded by a world linked by high-speed Internet coincide with the opportunities for lifelong learning that we strive to provide. And more selfishly, we want to be able to offer our own services on robust networks to a knowledgeable user base. When Canada’s libraries win, Canada wins.