I. Building Canada's Information Society
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Canada is establishing a networked economy and encouraging businesses and citizens to use it to their advantage.
Community Economic Development
The emerging knowledge-based economy brings new opportunities for local entrepreneurship — opportunities that help keep talented people at work in the community, as opposed to seeking careers in larger metropolitan centres.
To provide access to the Internet in all parts of Canada, the government has supported the creation of 8800 Community Access sites, where people can log on to the Internet.
The sites receive more than 34 million visits a year, and many are becoming local economic development incubators.
Canada has been exploring how to achieve economic, social and cultural improvements through the use of ICTs under its Smart Communities program. A smart community is one with a vision of the future that involves the use of ICTs in new and innovative ways to empower its residents, institutions and region as a whole. In 2000, Canada chose 12 smart community pilot projects through a nationwide competition. The objective was to establish world-class smart communities across the country, and gather and disseminate the lessons learned in the pilot projects in order to apply them to communities elsewhere.
ICTs have revolutionized the way companies conduct business — in everything from buying and selling to advertising and managing. E-business applications and systems bring businesses into contact with global markets. They also lower transaction and distribution costs, and improve product support, as well as increase consumer choice.
Canada seeks to be a global centre of excellence for e-business as part of promoting the evolution of an economy driven by innovation. Our goal is to make Canada a location of choice for developing e-commerce products and services — to capitalize on the phenomenal growth of on-line business.
A business survey on e-commerce shows that, although 76 percent of Canadian businesses use the Internet, only 32 percent buy goods on-line, and only 8 percent sell goods on-line. The number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) using e-business is growing, and government and industry, through the Canadian e-Business Initiative (CeBI), are working together to increase the take-up rate through tools, focus groups, workshops and seminars.
In the 1990s, Canada moved quickly to put in place seven legislative and regulatory policies to support e-business. As these policies were at the forefront of marketplace framework initiatives in their day, they are known as the "Seven Firsts".
There are also Government of Canada initiatives to promote the adoption and use of e-business that involve the development and dissemination of intelligence on the best e-business practices of Canadian industry sectors. One example is SourceCAN, an on-line marketplace that matches Canadian companies and their products and services with thousands of business opportunities posted daily by both domestic and foreign companies and governments. Through SourceCAN's secure trading environment, Canadian companies can source bids, follow new business leads and post opportunities. As well, they can create a booth in the Virtual Trade Show, pursue strategic partnerships or browse through e-commerce tools. Similarly, the ebiz.enable Web site helps SMEs determine the e-business benefits to their firms, and provides steps to effective commercial Internet use.
Smart Community: New Brunswick
In the Acadian Peninsula of New Brunswick, a rural Smart Community pilot project has explored ways to revitalize the local economy and provide opportunities close to home for people who used to have to leave to find a better way of life.
A network of 28 community access centres enables residents to exchange information and tourists to plan their visits to the region. The project also plans to set up several community information kiosks.
Through the project, the community has linked up with other Francophone communities across Canada and around the world. By delivering services and training in French, the project extends the benefits of the Internet to Francophones far beyond the Acadian Peninsula.
Canadian e-Business Initiative
The Canadian e-Business Initiative (CeBI) is a voluntary, private sector-led partnership that advocates the adoption and use of e-business by SMEs.
It advises on tax and investment rules that hamper economic growth, and is benchmarking Canada's performance in the digital economy. A key deliverable is the annual Net Impact Study. The 2002 study showed that firms adopting Internet Business Solutions have realized substantial financial benefits.
On average, revenues increased by 7 percent; the cost of goods sold decreased by 9.5 percent; and sales, general and administrative expenses decreased by 7.5 percent.
- Cryptography: Policy facilitating the development and use of strong encryption technology
- Consumer Protection: Voluntary business guidelines to protect consumers conducting on-line transactions
- Privacy: Framework legislation governing the protection of personal information
- E-Signatures: Legal framework for digital signatures in electronic records
- Public Key Infrastructure: Policy framework for the Government of Canada public key infrastructure
- Standards: Domestic and international e-commerce standards framework
- Tax Neutrality: Commitment to a technology-neutral taxation regime
How to convince busy small-business operators to invest the time — let alone the resources — to become e-businesses? Human nature being what it is, people tend to ignore or discard new products and services that demand more than a small amount of learning time.
One response in Canada is a Web site that helps SMEs explore whether or not e-business is right for them. The site features diagnostic tools to help entrepreneurs learn what is possible for their particular firm, and to assess the company's e-business potential. It also helps compare a particular business with others in the industry in which it competes.
Ebiz.enable provides case studies on ICT implementation, and ideas on ways to use the Internet to gather competitive intelligence, promote marketing and sales, manage customer relations and human resources, and streamline production and distribution. Using the Web, SMEs can start right away to make e-business work for them.