ARCHIVED—Setting the New Agenda
Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats on the "Contact Us" page.
e-Commerce to e-Economy: Strategies for the 21st Century
September 27-28, 2004
Hon. Perrin Beatty
President and CEO, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
The last day and a half has been an opportunity to take stock of what has been accomplished in the past decade, stated the Hon. Perrin Beatty - to see where Canada stands today, in which areas Canada is in a position of leadership and where there is more to do. Eleven years ago Canada's commitment to the Information Highway was announced at a conference in Vancouver, and people did not really know whether it was a good idea or whether there was in fact any interest in proceeding in this direction . Nothing was known about the Internet, the World Wide Web or the issues discussed over the last day and a half.
The job of the day's panel would be to look ahead, to determine what the agenda should be and what challenges can be expected. "Where do we go from here, and what can each of do?" he asked. The speed of change is breathtaking and the challenges are great, he noted.
National Science Advisor to the Prime Minster, Council of Science and Technology Advisors (CSTA)
Some 35 years ago when two computers were first linked at UCLA, there was no thought about privacy and security, said Arthur Carty. In fact, even the inventors of today's Internet view it as a work in progress.
The Internet has transformed the economy and our entire way of life, Carty said. By its very nature, the Internet is a moving target; a target that very few Canadian businesses have been able to hit. Canadian SMEs are not as e ready as their American counterparts. He maintained that three quarters of Canadian communities do not have access to broadband, leaving Canada in a productivity and innovation gap compared to its nearest neighbours.
The Canadian ICT sector employs half a million educated knowledge workers, Carty stated. The sector is also responsible for 11 per cent of the economic growth in Canada since 1997, as well as for 45 per cent of all business investment in research and development. ICT is important to every sector of the economy.
In order to succeed on the ICT front, Canada needs to foster an environment that supports risk. Canadians also need to trust that their systems are secure. These two factors would inspire the climate of risk-taking that is necessary for Canada to move forward, Carty said, adding that all partners have to be involved in this process.
Several elements are key to Canada's success in this endeavour:
- Development of better infrastructure, including tools, e business training and best practices
- Recognition of the need for internationalization and of the Internet as a great equalizer
- Nurturing of human capital
- Development of innovative, flexible partnerships between government, academia and private industry
"Canada must evolve as quickly as the Internet is evolving and we all have to recognize that there is a need to continually renew ourselves," said Carty.
President and Vice-Chancellor, York University
An important issue is how best to involve more small and medium-sized enterprises in ICT and to ensure the development of more partnerships between SMEs and post-secondary institutions, stated Lorna Marsden.
She described several known characteristics about the environment in Canada. First, most Canadian undergraduates end up working in a business environment, the majority of which are small and medium-sized enterprises. In addition, Canadians are different from their neighbours. Security and privacy concerns are uppermost in their minds. Finally, as a nation, Canadians are slow to change. With these facts in mind, it is vital that industry engages e talent wherever it lies, from kindergarten to retirement.
At York University, the majority of students use the Internet in a highly transactional manner; they do everything from register for their courses to take part in alumni networks. The challenge is to shift that knowledge towards innovation and commercialization as the students move into the workforce.
President and CEO, Telesystem Ltd.
Charles Sirois said he had not heard enough about entrepreneurship at the conference - the discussion "has focused on the paint, not on the painters." His talk focused on the role of entrepreneurs, how best to foster them and how to help them play a role in the development of Canada's e-economy.
The world is undergoing a major shift in mindset it is moving from a world that people own to one that they share; from corporations to associations; from competition to co-operation; and from goods to knowledge. To foster entrepreneurship in this kind of culture, there is a need to create an environment that will allow entrepreneurs to learn, evolve and transfer their knowledge. If Canada can develop this kind of culture, it will flourish, Sirois said.
Sirois described Enablis, a system used in developing countries to help and mentor entrepreneurs in the areas of ICT. The system involves an accreditation process for entrepreneurs. Once accredited, they sign a charter and are matched with a success manager. They gain access to the Enablis network and the Enablis bank, which offers a better interest rate. This type of model might work to foster entrepreneurship in developed countries.
A participant sought to inject a sense of urgency into the discussion. The pace of change is faster today and the skills content of tradable services is high. Canada cannot afford not to be a leader, he said. The next step in this process should be to get the public and private sectors together for a roundtable.
Charles Sirois expressed caution and concern regarding formulating a national strategy. "What happens if we are putting our efforts into the wrong place?" This is particularly problematic in the world of e-commerce, which is itself a moving target, he said.
Another participant said that Canada must also be aware of the work being done in this area in other countries. It is important to position Canada's work within the broader context of what other countries are doing.
A participant questioned how best to put this issue on the national political agenda. Sirois stressed the need to reinforce with politicians the fact that ICT is an enabler in all sectors of the economy, not just in industry. It will be important to get every sector on board and get them to engage in discussion with government.
There is a belief in government circles that technology will help the healthcare system, and consumers share that belief, another participant said. The time is ripe for industry to galvanize around this issue.
There is a belief that e business can mobilize any sector, concurred Lorna Marsden. It is now time to move forward with that mobilization; however, the question becomes one of resources.
A participant asked what Canada's e-economy would look like in 10 years. Sirois replied that to be successful, Canada will have to build a successful breed of entrepreneurs. People, not by corporations, will build wealth he said. "Canada will have to win the e-economy challenge if it wants to remain one of the best places in the world to live."
Carty stated that 10 years from now Canadians will still be concerned about healthcare, but the e-economy will be more pervasive.
Marsden said that 10 years from now, Canada will not know if it has narrowed the productivity gap if it has not developed metrics to better measure that gap. The first step is to create sophisticated indices of who we are, what we do and where we have to go, she said.
- Date modified: