Vincent Doré is a JD/MBA Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and Schulich School of Business.
Over 2000 people convened in Stratford, Ontario this week for Canada 3.0: Canada’s Premier Digital Media Forum. This 2-day conference was created in an effort to bring together the best minds from the digital media space to collaboratively develop some “actionable ideas” that would turn Canada’s digital media industry into a world leader. But while exhibitors pitched their products and digital media experts voiced their opinions, few tangible solutions were put forward.
A joint effort of the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN) and the University of Waterloo, Stratford Campus, Canada 3.0 was meant to begin answering the multitude of questions that have been posed in the digital media space over the last 15 years: Why is Canada’s health care so lagging in adopting digital technologies? What is Canada’s role in the gaming industry? Should Canada’s vision be of a digital economy or a digital nation? What changes to copyright and privacy laws need to occur to account for the unique nature of digital media?
When regulatory issues were brought up, the responses ranged from indifference to capitulation to sheer avoidance. “I’ll leave that to the lawyers,” said one panelist. This feeling was pervasive throughout the conference. As the main ideas from the various panels were summarized after two days of discussion, the conclusion with respect to regulation was: “Do something!” Whether this ends up being the “call to action” many had hoped would emanate from this conference remains to be seen.
Fortunately, all is not lost. Canada 3.0 was rife with innovative products and services. The talent, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit exist here. So too does the necessary political support: The Honourable Tony Clement, Canada’s Industry Minister, made an appearance at the conference. Moreover, in the Government of Canada consultation paper on Canada’s digital economy strategy (“Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage: Strategies for Sustainable Prosperity,”), the government reiterated its commitment to “open Canada’s doors further.” Throughout the consultation paper, the government asks for feedback on crucial issues from its constituency, effectively beginning the process of collaboration by engaging industry experts and the general public alike.
As the conference closed on the second day, Tom Jenkins, Executive Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of Open Text, an enterprise software company, articulated the need for a regulatory framework in the digital media space. “Clearly,” he said, “we need to update our laws for digital.” Unfortunately, despite the Industry Minister’s commitment to change, the only concrete suggestions made during the conference involved tax credits of some kind. Certainly the government must have hoped for more direction from digital media industry experts.
In an attempt to assimilate two days of discussion, Mr. Jenkins established three key issues for the future of Canada’s digital media: (i) Connectivity and accessibility for all Canadians; (ii) Content – digitizing Canadian culture, and; (iii) Collaboration and widespread digital literacy. Despite an absence of concrete recommendations, the words resonated in the crowd as the conference came to a close.
Mr. Jenkins remained grounded in his assessment of the value of a conference with a rather homogeneous group of attendees: “We can comment on digital, but we must be humble enough to recognize that we are digital content experts, and we still need experts in other areas to put a strategy together.” This reinforced the collaborative message that the conference was meant to promote.
To leverage the conference’s high profile in spreading the message further, the discussions and debates have continued digitally. All Canadians are encouraged to take part in the interactions that will shape Canada’s role in the global digital economy for years to come (to have your voice heard, join the debate at http://www.canada30.ca or http://twitter.com/Canada3Forum).