The federal government has to take a lead role in encouraging adoption of information and communications technologies to push innovation, says an IT industry lobby group.
“Despite Canada’s world-leading infrastructure, ICT adoption across Canadian businesses and citizens significantly lags behind other countries, resulting in lower business productivity and reduced prosperity for Canadians,” says in one of two position papers released Thursday by the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) “To ensure a strong and successful innovation agenda, the government must take a lead role in spurring adoption across the nation—demonstrating the benefits of technology across all sectors, while simultaneously investing in the next generation of digital infrastructure.”
The position papers come as the federal government seeks input on creating innovation and cyber security strategies.
To realize the economic, social and democratic benefits of the digital economy, Canada must work harder to create world-leading digital infrastructure and facilitate the broader adoption of technology, says the paper.
To do that ITAC recommends Ottawa
–change the Capital Cost Allowance Rate (CCA) to encourage all companies to invest in digital technology.
Capital cost allowances generally favour adoption of ICT, the association says, but understanding the allowance for a full package of ICT tools (e.g., from cloud computing, to servers to applications) can be challenging, particularly for small businesses. Rationalizing and standardizing capital cost allowances for ICT classes of assets would help to encourage technology adoption, it says. Specific attention should be paid to standardizing the classes of depreciable assets listed under radiocommunications equipment, fibre optics; and data network infrastructure equipment and systems software.;
–develop partnerships, funding vehicles and policy initiatives to enable 5G technology in Canada.
Next-generation 5G technology offer “transformational opportunities for Canada: propelling research, powering “smart” cities, producing immense quantities of open data, and ushering in a new wave of telecommunications expertise,” says the paper;
–include “digital” in the definition of infrastructure the new Liberal government is now funding. Without a change in the definition, telecom networks aren’t eligible for such funds;
–fund telehealth services in both urban and remote communities, including $30 million over three years to Canada Health Infoway;
–support e-learning to create inclusive education;
–create a national strategy on the Internet of Things (IoT). Last March, the paper notes, the U.S. Congress passed the Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things Act.
–do more for cyber security. “The Canadian government needs to do more to ensure Canadians and businesses take cyber security seriously. This should include increasing public education and creating a minimum standard for business, similar to the UK’s Cyber Essentials program,” says the report.
ITAC also released a paper on trade and competitiveness, calling on the government to review the country’s tax and research and development policies to ensure they meet the needs of the tech industry.
In particular the paper asks Ottawa not to bring in tax policies that make it difficult to retain top talent, approve the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement (CETA), the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and a new WTO Trade in Services Agreement, develop common approaches with other countries to combat “frivolous, innovation suppressing” intellectual property litigation, harmonizing and removing unnecessary provincial and national barriers to open digital commerce, and broaden trade support programs to better serve small businesses.
The two papers are the first in a series of four that are meant to promote investments in the tech sector and ensure ICT is aligned to the new federal innovation agenda. Later this month a position papers on digital government will be released, followed by a paper on talent and skills development in November.
ITAC represents some of the biggest names in technology including Bell Canada, HP Enterprise, IBM Canada, Microsoft Canada, Softchoice Corp. and Open Text Corp.