The 21st century economy is a digital economy. The industrial strategy Canada uses to found its own digital economy, as well as situate itself within the larger global one, will not only impact balance sheets but the way all Canadians live, grow and prosper.
This is why the recent announcement of a digital economy strategy for Canada is so exciting, and so vital. Minister of Industry Tony Clement - along with Minister of Heritage James Moore, and Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley - has given our nation a remarkable opportunity to take our fate into our own hands and shape the country we want to live in for several generations.
Digital tools and content are pervasive, if not ubiquitous. From smart phone applications to GPS systems to digital tax submission, the products and services of the information and communications technology (ICT) industry infiltrate, and educate, every aspect of modern life.
The extent to which Canadians adopt these products and services, in every vector of our economy - and in both the public and private sectors - will dictate what sort of leader we will be on the global economic stage. In this "new normal," Canada must lead the pack or risk being passed by it; leadership is within our grasp.
These are remarkable times for the development and implementation of technology. Work forces around the world are rapidly aging. Many of our key economic competitors are already creating their own digital strategies. We have a lot of advantages such as a well-educated population, strength in technology, and a superior fiscal position.
But Canada has a poor record in the adoption of productivity-enhancing goods and services - lagging behind our American counterparts by nearly 40 per cent in average spend on ICT per worker in 2008.
This is our opportunity to demonstrate that we are innovative, and that we will be among the most productive - and therefore competitive - nations in the world. Technology is, after all, an enabling force, capable of helping people and companies realize their full potential.
The ICT industry obviously welcomes the announcement of an imminent digital economy strategy. The opportunities to return Canada to a leadership position globally in the production and use of digital tools is exciting.
Encouraging Canadian business to be more technologically inventive is a task we have postponed for too long. We are most anxious to get that under way to help ensure Canada's productivity and competitiveness.
But if this consultation process occurs exclusively between our industry and policy makers, it will be a hollow exercise. Canadians of all ages, in all walks of life, have a vital stake in defining how our nation will function, what opportunities it will create, and what checks and balances it will put in place to guarantee a robust digital future. All Canadians should engage in this discussion.
Bernard Courtois is president and CEO of the Information Technology Association of Canada