From widgets to digits: Digital Canada 150 helps CDMN accelerate the future
Mill it, drill it and kill it.
For decades, that simple mantra has been enough to sustain a Canadian economy based almost exclusively on natural resources, which we ship abroad and then buy back as finished goods.
As a result, “we give up a big chunk of the value chain,” said Dr. Kevin Tuer, Managing Director of the Canadian Digital Media Network.
But, as Canada’s economic focus shifts from widgets to digits – illustrated by Industry Minister James Moore’s new Digital Canada 150 strategy – a huge opportunity is opening up, Tuer said.
“This epitomizes our opportunity to own the entire digital value chain, which is absolutely essential for us,” he said of DC 150, which Moore unveiled at Waterloo, Ont.-based OpenText last Friday. “What that means to me is that we can be world-class and we can be world leaders at this. We don’t need to take a back seat to anyone.”
DC 150’s five pillars – Connecting Canadians, Protecting Canadians, Economic Opportunities, Digital Government and Canadian Content – align beautifully with the CDMN’s mandate: to make Canada a world leader in digital media by fostering connections between entrepreneurs, companies, research institutes, government and intermediary organizations.
The pillars also complement CDMN’s own “Moonshot 5” areas of focus, aimed at enabling any Canadian to do anything online by 2017: Access to Capital, Access to Talent, Connectivity, Content and Productivity.
“The DC 150 underpins all of this, and shows to me that it’s a priority for Canada,” Tuer said. “It essentially gives us our marching orders to continue to do what we’re doing, and look at ways we can turn digital content into wealth generation.”
Connecting Canadians, for example, is a big element of the CDMN’s Moonshot goal, he said. The same goes for DC 150’s Economic Opportunities pillar. “CDMN is about commercialization of digital media, so recognition of the economic opportunities around a digital strategy obviously aligns very well with us,” Tuer said.
On the Canadian Content pillar, CDMN and its 28 partner hubs across the country recognize that “content is king,” he said. “We just need to get more of it out there, and we need to show that we are world-class in terms of content.”
And CDMN will be central to DC 150’s Digital Government pillar, as it enters a public-private partnership with the University of Waterloo, Communitech, OpenText and Desire2Learn to launch the Open Data Institute. The ODI, which drew a mention in DC 150, will work with governments, academic institutions and the private sector to solve challenges facing open government efforts and realize the full potential of open data.
That means economic opportunities for Canadian innovators who are willing and able to seize them.
“With the ODI, just like CDMN, it’s about commercialization; it’s about creating wealth and jobs out of these initiatives,” Tuer said. “In terms of digital, we have the opportunity, an unprecedented opportunity as Canadians, to own the entire value chain, from supply of digital content all the way to finished product.”
In an interview after last Friday’s DC 150 announcement, Moore lauded the impact CDMN has made in just five years since its inception.
“With 3,500 direct jobs that have been created over the last few years, and all these startups and all these businesses – 400 or so businesses, if memory serves – it’s great,” said Moore, whose constituency is Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam in B.C.
“The footprint that they have in the Okanagan, in Vancouver, all across the country, is very good,” Moore said. “And the amount of jobs that they’ve actually leveraged – it’s an $8.75-million investment that we announced not that long ago – versus $1 billion in economic generation, that’s phenomenal.”
Tuer looks forward to putting that investment – along with guidance from DC 150 – to use in continuing to build Canada’s capacity not only to compete, but to lead the world in the digital realm.
“I look at this as an accelerant; it’s a catalyst for us to continue to move that mandate forward,” he said of Moore’s digital plan. “This lights a fire – a digital fire, if you will – under our collective butts in order to make things move.”