A consultant who helped British Columbia implement a provincial digital strategy four years ago has nothing but contempt for Ottawa’s decision to start a public consultation
now on creating a national digital economic strategy.
“I don’t know what the feds have been waiting for,” asked Eamon Hoey, senior partner of Hoey Associates, which advises CEOs on strategic planning.
Canadian wireless carriers only just launched 3.5G networks, he said, while many other countries are preparing to launch 4G LTE or mobile WiMax networks. British Columbia and Alberta have advanced plans to extend broadband to underserved areas in their provinces, he added.
“If [Industry minister Tony] Clement needs me or somebody else to chat with him to have one more goddamned report that’s going to sit on somebody’s shelf, that ain’t productive.”
“I don’t know why they’re coming to market at this time,” he said. “The mess has been created and it’s not retrievable.”
“We’re so far behind the rest of the world it’s going to require a real overhaul.”
However, in an interview Clement dismissed Hoey’s attack.
“We have lost ground over the last 10-15 years, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “But if I thought things were irredeemable I wouldn’t be in politics.”
University of Ottawa Internet and e-commence law professor Michael Geist praised Clement for having “constant interest” in digital issues.
Still, in an interview he said the consultation is “long overdue.” Industry Canada held a one-day conference on the digital economy almost a year ago, he said. There was a “clear call” then for a national digital strategy.
In his speech announcing the consultation, Clement said it could take six to 18 months to develop a strategy.
“That isn’t moving at Internet speed,” complained Geist. “That’s moving at government speed.”
In the interview Clement said Geist is entitled to his opinion.
Asked if Canadians shouldn’t think the government is just holding another talk on digital issues, Clement said “that’s not a correct characterization.
“In fact because of the work we did at the one-day summit last year we’ve moved very smartly ahead on some of the issues that were raised – for instance, anti-spam legislation, changes to make sure that our privacy laws are into the 21st century and changes to section 116 of the Income Tax which was acting as an impediment in its current form to foreign investment for ICT companies. So in fact there’s been a lot of good work done from that one-day summit. But I think it’s time for all of society – provincial governments, municipal governments, academia and business --to also be part of an overall societal strategy on the digital economy."