Community Informatics and the Economist Intelligence Unit: From a Digital Economy to a Digital Society: A Response to the Canadian Digital Economy Consultation (2)

Posted on July 3, 2010

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It would be great but perhaps unrealistic to expect that any of those with responsibility in the Canadian Digital Economy policy consultation reading my earlier blogpost on that subject.

But perhaps one could hope that the folks on Parliament Hill might take a look at a report by the very highly regard publication and research group, The Economist Intelligence Unit’s: “Digital economy rankings 2010: Beyond e-readiness” .

This very valuable document provides its understandings and presumptions concerning the necessary building blocks for a “Digital Economy” and quite interestingly, those building blocks almost completely parallel the suggestions made in my earlier blogpost. Thus for example:

1. recognizing that a digital economy and a digital society are inextricably linked and that it makes little sense to plan for one without paying significant attention to the other

2. seeing the broad areas of digital literacy and overall education as being a necessary element in “e-readiness”

3. recognizing that there is a necessary shift away from thinking simply about “e-readiness” to thinking more broadly about the digital economy (and society)—the Canadian consultation in its details focuses almost exclusively on e-readiness related issues.

4. the inclusion of social and cultural matters as “drivers of digital progress”

5. focusing on “the levels at which consumers and businesses actually use digital services” and not simply being concerned with measures and policies in support of “access”… “our long-standing premise that progress towards a fully digital economy requires concerted action across all the areas addressed in the rankings”

6. recognizing that the scale for “Internet user penetration” should be based on 100% of the population now representing the highest penetration achievable in a country rather than the previous 75%.

7. E-ready governments supply their constituents—citizens and organisations—with a clear roadmap for the adoption of technology

On the index developed and applied by the EIU based on the above and related assumptions, Canada has fallen from 9th to 11th overall from the previous year (behind, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand).

The following paragraph taken from the conclusion to the EIU’s report would fit most comfortably into the conclusion of any similar Community Informatics assessment of overall national progress towards the achievement of a digitally inclusive society.

“This benchmarking exercise has measured not only the availability and adoption of ICT (or “connectivity”) in each country, but also development of the social, cultural and economic building blocks necessary for its effective use. More recently, it has also attempted to gauge the extent to which ICT and selected ICT-enabled services are being used, given that it is the use of technology which ultimately contributes to the overall economic progress of a country.”