May 112011
Michael Wesch at Canada 3.0

Image by thecleversheep via Flickr

STRATFORD – We have seen the future – and it’s outpacing us.

That, in a nutshell, was one of the impressions left by Canada 3.0, the annual confab of digital technology experts, at its third annual gathering here this week.

Consider these digits: 96% of Canadian households are now within reach of the Internet, either by fixed or mobile services.

Two-thirds of Canadian households access it. On average, we spend 43.5 hours online each month (the worldwide average is 23.1), visiting an average 95.2 websites and viewing an average 3,349 pages.

So far so good. Our country’s vast expanse and relatively sparse population have made us avid Web users. We’re no slouches when it comes to screen time.

But other numbers are more sobering. Only a quarter of Canadian classrooms have interactive whiteboards, compared to three-quarters in Britain. Our use of digital technologies in the delivery of health care ranks 10th out of 16 peer countries.

When it comes to public documents and our national documentary heritage, we’re nearly unanimous in our belief that we should have online access. However, only 13% of existing Canadian publications are currently online. Canadian film and broadcast material is even less accessible, at less than 1%.

According to the Stratford Institute for Digital Media, Canada ranked fourth in the world in 2008 in terms of the contribution our connectivity made to economic performance. In 2009, we slipped to seventh. In 2010, we were ninth.

And if all those figures paint a picture of a country that’s pulled over in to the right-hand lane, waving others past, our performance when it comes to innovation adds another broad brush stroke. Ten per cent of Canadian businesses aren’t connected to the Internet – well behind the average among OECD countries. Half of Canadian businesses don’t have a website (“That,” said one expert, “is like not having a phone number”).

Canada ranked ninth in the world in global competitiveness in 2010.

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