Canadian businesses have fallen behind their global counterparts when it comes to ICT investment and will have to work closely with government on a national strategy that will re-establish the country as a digital economic power. The argument was laid out by several technology experts Monday at an Industry Canada-hosted event in Ottawa.
Currently about 600,000 people are directly involved in the production, sales and marketing of Canada’s multi-billion dollar ICT industry, about 20 per cent more than the auto industry at its peak, Research In Motion Ltd.’s president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis told conference attendees.
Those numbers also leave out the hundreds of thousands of people who produce, maintain, sell and install technology in other industry sectors, he added. “Still, looking at the Canadian ICT industry, it is largely taken for granted.”
Despite the numbers, Lazaridis said a national strategy that encourages businesses to use ICT to compete globally is long overdue and necessary if Canada is to emerge strongly from the ongoing global economic recession.
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Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, echoed Lazaridis’ sentiments, calling on the government to set up a national strategy — developed in conjunction with the private sector and educational institutions — that commits to new infrastructure investments and creates common sense policies to promote ICT use.
“The United States, Australia, Denmark and South Korea are a few of the nations that have recently invested heavily in these technologies, realizing the potential return for businesses and citizens,” he said, adding that U.S. President Obama has made it abundantly clear that new ICT infrastructure will help strengthen the American economy.
“Without proper investment and dedication to ICT, innovation and protecting intellectual property rights, Canada’s productivity will be limited and other nations will eclipse us as a destination of choice for business investment.”
He said that while the recent three-year, $225-million commitment to broadband infrastructure is a good first step, it is far from being enough to getting Canada back on-track.
Jacob Glick, who heads Google Inc.’s Canadian Policy Counsel, agreed, saying that developing high-speed networks to facilitate emerging mobile technologies will play a significant role in Canada’s future as an ICT powerhouse. All it will take, he added, is some common sense from government leaders.