Over the past decade, Canada has transitioned from an industrial economy to a networked economy said Keith Parsonage, Director General of the Information and Communications Technologies branch with Industry Canada.
Parsonage told attendees gathered today at the IT 360 conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Center, that ICT is fundamental in enabling technologies, which in turn are enabling advances in health, security, transportation etc.
“The tipping point was the invention of the Internet,” said Parsonage.
He said that Canadian citizens are some of the most Internet savvy, with one of the highest percentages of broadband penetration in the world at 93 per cent. Canadians average 40 hours per month online, and the average user accesses almost 4,000 pages of content per month, according to Statistics Canada.
In addition to spending a lot of time online, Canadians are also spending a lot of money electronically, as the total Internet sales for 2007 in Canada were $76 billion, owing in large part said Parsonage to the convenience factor, and not having to fight traffic to do your shopping.
The way in which Canadians use the Internet has also changed as e-mailing ranks as one of the top online activities, along with searching for health information online, and e-banking.
“Canadians are among the highest users of e-government in the world…we even like to pay our taxes online,” he said. Half of the tax returns filed last year in Canada were done electronically, noted Parsonage.
Parsonage conceded that increasing technology can also increase challenges, such as the digital divide that exists in rural areas.
“Universal access is a bridge to economic and social inclusion,” he said.
Parsonage added that the government has responded to this challenge with their BRAND initiative, the aim of which is to bridge the digital divide. As of 2007, over 2,000 communities were without broadband.
He also highlighted other efforts that the Canadian government has launched to “connect” Canadians, referred to as the six pillars (1998-2002):
– Canada Online
– Smart Communities
– Canadian content online
– Electronic commerce
– Canadian Government Online
– Connect Canada to the world
Parsonage said that global consulting firm Accenture has recognized the Government of Canada Online (GOL) as being number one in the world in e-government in the past six out of seven years.
Industry Canada’s programs and policies are evolving says Parsonage, and include the following:
– Connectedness Agenda (1996+)
– National Broadband Taskforce (2001)
– SPAM Taskforce (2004-2006)
– CANARIE refunding (April 2007)
– Telecom Policy Review (2005)