Canada must improve to remain connectedness leader

Canada must continue to improve and not become complacent to remain a world leader in the use of information and communication technologies, according to an applied research organization survey released on Thursday.

The Conference Board of Canada’s annual Connectedness Index found the country needs to focus on improving in three key areas, including broadband services, content and wireless.

Canada is a leader in broadband services and can continue by upgrading its content, according to Brian Guthrie, director of innovation and knowledge management at the Conference Board.

Guthrie sees a real opportunity to become a leader in content, an area where we are currently lagging, especially if the Internet becomes the dominant communications medium. He feels that if real professionals get online and provide interactive services, especially in the health and education fields, Canada will become a global leader.

“What’s difficult is for the professionals, for teachers, doctors or community healthcare workers to take the time and have the resources to invest in that content,” Guthrie said.

As for wireless, Guthrie said enterprises need upgrades both in fixed wireless in existing buildings, as well as in the implementation of mobile wireless to connect outside maintenance workers and oil field workers.

“We’ve actually been lagging [behind] other countries in wireless, because we’ve had such a good wired infrastructure over the last few decades,” he added.

The study found that Canadians trailed only the U.S. in its use of information and communications technologies (ICT’s). The four sectors that most benefited from Canada’s strength in connectedness were: health, education and learning, business and government.

Canada was ranked first in its use of online banking, government online services and broadband penetration, according to the study. Businesses like financial institutions are taking advantage of technology’s ability to lower costs and better interact with customers.

The study found that activity in the area of the e-business sector is steadily increasing.

As well, household Internet use continues to rise with 32 per cent of Canadian households saying they go online to access formal education and learning.

Guthrie applauded Canadians’ core use of the Internet, which he described as “more sophisticated and judicious.” An example of what people are using it for: getting their degrees online.

Despite this smart use of technology, Guthrie said use has plateaued over the last year because people are feeling overloaded by the flood of information.

“There’s been a bit of a ‘personal space backlash’ where people are realizing that the intrusions of e-mail and cell phones are starting to stress them out too much. The volume is overwhelming so they are turning things off,” Guthrie said.

The Conference Board is at