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Submitted by Stratford Institute 2010-07-14 08:25:44 EDT
Theme(s): Canada's Digital Content


The Stratford Institute, a partnership of the University of Waterloo, the City of Stratford and the private sector, is a founding partner of the Canada 3.0 Conferences. It has been established as a new think tank and research centre promoting dialogue and networking across governments, the private sector and colleges and universities.

This submission supports others as seeing the issue not just as a Digital Economy Strategy and far more ambitiously as the need for a compelling vision, leadership and urgent action on developing Canada as a digital society. This builds on the federal government's previous national consultation on the Canadian Digital Information Strategy.

Issues addressed: Governments as Model Users; Review Crown Copyright; Open government data sets for general use; and the necessity of digitizing and preserving massive Canadian content in all forms to ensure access to Canadian expression in an unregulated environment. A proposal for The Canada Digital Challenge is appended.


The STRATFORD INSTITUTE for digital media has been established through a partnership of the University of Waterloo, the City of Stratford, Open Text Corporation, the Canadian Digital Media Network and with the strong support of the Government of Ontario.

Its mandate is broad: Through collaboration across sectors to help define and advance Canada as a Digital Nation by working at the intersection of:

  • of the arts and social sciences with technology, and business;
  • of creativity, practicality and leadership in all spheres;
  • of the past, the present, and visions of the future

The STRATFORD INSTITUTE will conduct research, encourage debate, organize consultations and otherwise encourage initiatives at the local, regional, national and international levels. It will serve as a place of assembly, open discussion and continuing conversation — digital and otherwise — related to Canada's future prospects as a digital nation.

The STRATFORD INSTITUTE is new but it has already helped found the CANADA 3.0 Conference and has supported the distribution of its conclusions. In addition, it has run workshops with the University of Western Ontario and the Public Policy Forum on issues of common interest.

The STRATFORD INSTITUTE has worked closely with the University of Waterloo, the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Canadian Digital Media Network,, and the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow's ICT Skills in the preparation of their briefs to this consultation. To avoid repetition, we want to state clearly that we support their recommendations. This brief will simply emphasize a few key points.


This initiative by Industry Canada with its federal partners is both welcome and timely. As The Honourable Tony Clement observed, Canada, once recognized as a leader in the digital sphere, is quickly falling behind its international competitors. As CANADA 3.0 has stressed last year and this, action is urgently required. This must take the form of unprecedented collaboration across all levels of government, the private sector, universities and the voluntary sector. A compelling national vision, supported by an inclusive agenda is required to animate and engage all sectors of society.

While the Digital Economy is a vital part of this vision, the presence of several federal cabinet ministers at the launch of this consultation demonstrated that the issues are broader than the economy and challenge Canada to become a digital society by 2017, if not sooner. The issue not just a "Digital Economy Strategy for Canada" but a broad-based strategy for Canada as a digital society. And as many briefs have argued, in the digital world, investments, skills and content are highly mobile. It is time to begin sustained, dynamic, action together on a new 'national dream'. And the first requirement is vision and leadership.

The federal government consulted widely several years ago on many of these same issues. Workshops were held across the country with those active in digital issues, culminating in a National Summit in Montebello. The full proceedings of the Summit and consultations are online at Library and Archive Canada. From this a coalition of major research libraries has come together in and several private corporations have become engaged in the policy issues. It is time to build on that initiative and vision.


1) Government as Model User

Governments at all levels have a key role to play not just as early adapters but also as active partners in helping develop new technology for practical applications. Government procurement rules need to be reviewed to ensure that government requirements can help drive invention; that there is a large scale test bed for new applications and that the private sector can inform government procurement. With the pace of technological change, governments have lagged behind in drafting requirements for technology which is out of date before it is acquired. Government attitudes and culture around working collaboratively with university research and the private sector need to shift so that the public service can work closely with those inventing tomorrow.

Much of this technology addresses information; how it is created, stored, retrieved and accessed. Applications like the social media familiar to students and enterprise content management adopted by the private sector can threaten silos, hierarchy and the ingrained information culture of public services. All administrative policies should be reviewed in light of the capability of the new technologies and the expectations of both new employees and citizens. . Adopt the conclusions of the excellent Australian report: ENGAGE: Getting on with Government 2.0 Online

2) Copyright

As others have argued, it is time to review the efficacy of Crown Copyright in federal and provincial governments. This is a barrier to the use of the incredible storehouse of information, research and consultants' studies on shelves and in cabinets around all governments. Related to this is the opening of government held and created data sets for broad creative use in society. In the USA, President Obama directed that 100 data sets in the US government be opened in his first 100 days. A year later over 270,000 data sets have been opened enabling new insights, new relationships and establishing new businesses. See: website

Similarly, serious thought must be given with the copyright collectives to establishing a process to put 'orphan works' online. Traditionally we have been lax in tracking copyright holders in print and media assets as people move and across generations.

3) Canadian Content

Governments cannot regulate content on the Internet. It is no longer possible to ensure space for Canadian content through regulating broadcasting, book publishing and distribution, and subsidizing magazine and newspaper mailings. As other countries are proving, the only viable strategy is to ensure that comprehensive Canadian content is available online, prominently and easily located and engaging to use. Today, in an information rich, technology enabled society, the general public, students and too many young people living online no longer think to ask: "Is that all there is?" They assume that anything of relevance is already online; as though the knowledge universe was born just a decade or so ago. In fact, for Canadian print materials, the best estimate is that less than 4% is currently online and for our other national knowledge resources: The official documents and files, the photographs, the portraits, the maps, documentary art, films, radio and TV broadcasts that collectively constitute Canada's memory, substantially less than 1% is online despite the cumulative efforts of major institutions. In recent polling, 95% of Canadians indicated they expect online access to their library and archival resources. Canada leads the world in providing multi-media mobile technology and we have invested heavily in broadband access; but in terms of our content, the record of Canadian experience, creativity and research, we are proceeding further into the knowledge society with less than 4% of our strength. We need to mobilize our knowledge resources as a strategic asset in the new economy.

Once online, everyone at home, in the classroom, or in the public library can access fragile and unique source documents, traditionally handled by very few. The result is a renewed interest in all aspects of the Canadian experience. Canadians are discovering for the very first time the extent and detail of the files carefully preserved by archivists. History shifts from the general to the individual as students find the service files of their predecessors whose names are commemorated on the centotaph in the town square. History becomes first person singular as genealogists study family and community. With the web site, La Nouvelle France, drawing on many institutions here and in France to make available the full administrative records of New France, Library and Archives Canada went beyond just a research site to reconstitute the documentary heritage of a nation, documents scattered in 1763. Canadian film and sound recordings are coming available and huge maps can be studied and compared in detail. Canadiana collections, once handled by very few and then only with white gloves are being transformed from the least accessible heritage resource to the most accessible. All the while protecting the originals from excessive use.

Some suggest that Canadian youth are not interested in the history of their country and show that they consistently fail a trivial pursuit test on our history. Nonsense. Based on the use of the Library and Archives Canada web site, it is vividly clear that Canadians of all ages are searching for authoritative information about our past: e.g. 17 downloads per second on census records; over 75,000 searches per month on the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Perhaps traditional memory work is a thing of the past, when memory is now external, worn on a ribbon around the neck. Instead, with masses of information available, young people tend to focus on search strategies and when asked about the first prime minister, may not know it offhand but can instantly summon the name of Sir John A. Macdonald, with the full DCB entry, his portraits, many of the books written about him, his letters now online, newspapers and photographs.

These comments apply to the extensive holdings of the educational broadcasters, the CBC/RadioCanada; film makers, all the publications, reports and studies in government libraries and offices, university research conclusions, maps, portraits, photographs, documentary art, museum artifacts, works of art, etc, etc. And, as the existing, sometimes fragile, materials are digitized and as new digital expressions are added we need to provide the interinstitutional infrastructure necessary to preserve the digital record for access over the generations.

Creativity builds on the past, explores new insights and relationships and then takes it forward in new form. While fully respecting the rights of those who create the expressions of our culture and build our knowledge base we need to have a systematic national effort to place Canadian content where it can be accessed by Canadians and by the world.

I append a proposal for The Canada Digital Challenge, seeking to engage all governments, all universities, all non-governmental organizations and all who have substantial holding of Canadian books, archives, art, heritage objects, films, broadcast material and other records of Canadian creativity, expression and experience. This is a one-time participatory project: a capital project for the knowledge society. This was considered by one stream at Canada 3.0 and the broad goal endorsed.


Mobilizing Canada's Knowledge — The Canada Digital Challenge

The Vision: Canada: a digital nation

Over 1400 Canadian leaders in the new economy gathered in Stratford in June, 2009 and issued the clarion call to action:

Canada must set an ambitious target-to become the first truly digital nation in the world-and must move with urgency and determination toward this goal.

They committed themselves to 'collaboration, partnership, and collective action on an unprecedented national and cross-sectoral scale'.

While there are many aspects to this ambition, one is fundamental to both model the collaboration necessary and to engage all governments, the private sector, NGOs and citizens in realizing this 21st Century national dream: The systematic digitization of existing Canadian content, both print and audio-visual. National broadband access is vital. Access to Canadian content is no less vital to our economy and to our national vision. It is ambitious and, properly done, it can seize the imagination of the digital generation.

Many countries have taken steps to digitize the repositories of knowledge that reside in centuries of written words and to make that digitized content freely available to their citizens and to the world electronically. Canada lags behind other countries in our productive use of the Internet for this purpose.

Information Technology Association of Canada. June 2009.

In the past decade, Canada's technology firms have come to be recognized as world leaders in managing content, in imaging and in mobile, wireless communication. To sustain this position and to demonstrate our commitment to the new economy, Canada now needs to show the world how to implement this technology to create, explore and advance what it means to be a digital nation. In the knowledge economy, the new capital infrastructure includes a nation's knowledge resources, its research and its expressions of creativity. We need a national effort to bring our existing assets off the shelf and out of storage vaults to fuel the next generation of knowledge development and invention.

The Canada Digital Challenge intends to engage the imagination of all Canadians.

A very public call will go to all Canadians and especially the new generation to participate. All governments and universities and all our institutions will be asked to assist in rapidly advancing the digital agenda: Digitize and open our knowledge and creative resources!

In the process The Challenge will forge new collaboration across governments, universities and the private sector; we will show the capability of Canadian multi-media mobile technology in informing citizens; and we will move the latest content retrieval solutions out from the business applications to the whole population. The foreseeable results will include:

  • Building and showcasing a unique made-in-Canada approach to managing our national content; one marketable elsewhere;
  • Providing training and significant new jobs in digital media;
  • Supporting opportunities for start-ups to expand the digital economy;
  • Encouraging research opportunities to drive search and retrieval and simplify e-preservation;
  • Integrating Canada's knowledge and creative materials into education, from school to university to lifelong learning; unleashing creativity in film and music; providing the authoritative source for public policy development; and encouraging Canadian studies around the world;
  • Ensuring that existing and new digital materials of value will be preserved and accessible for future generations;
  • Above all we will create an online resource base of permanent value to Canada; one that can be added to and maintained routinely once the foundation is in place; and
  • Enable Canada to think, remember, innovate and create as the pioneering Digital Nation.

The Stratford Declaration,2009 concluded with the clear and urgent warning:

The foundations of Canada's digital economy and society are not yet strong and stable. Significant upgrades are required to the digital infrastructure, including both the technological infrastructure and made-in-Canada content.

The Canadian Reality 2010

The extensive record of Canadian experience and creativity encompasses

  • The research reports from many disciplines; Uncounted consultants studies and 300,000 graduate theses;
  • A century of films and surviving radio and TV productions, documentaries and sports film; amounting to 5 million hours of often fragile recordings;
  • Books, journals and magazines on many subjects, popular and academic, fiction and non-fiction: Over 2 million unique books, 150,000 serial titles, 380,000 microfilm reels of newspapers government funded studies on agriculture, the economy, demographics and public policy issues; analyses of environmental shifts;
  • Our music, maps, and photographs: 2.5 million maps, 1.4 million music recordings, over 25 million ;photos;
  • Parliamentary debates and reports, federal and provincial: Over 1 million government publications.

These are largely well preserved on shelves but accessible to few. They are not conveniently available throughout the country to government decision makers, to students, to researchers both scholarly and amateur or to inform an international audience of Canada's achievements in many fields. Less than 4% of Canada's printed material is currently available online and substantially less than 1% of our extraordinary audio visual resources. At the same time, polling indicates that 95% of Canadians expect to find most Canadian content online and less than 30% are satisfied with the quality or the quantity. Limited efforts by our national institutions like the National Film Board and the Library and Archives of Canada have amply demonstrated popular demand for major digitization initiatives. Canadians are searching for entertainment that reflects our society, for authoritative information about our society and our land.

As we move into the competitive knowledge economy, the research and experience, the creative expression, the insight and the wisdom distilled by generations of Canadians sits comparatively idyll. Other governments are investing heavily in establishing their presence and viewpoints in the e-world. The Canadian voice and perspective are missing in the global discussion, where our young people now live.

Recognition of this situation has led to unprecedented discussions across universities, cultural institutions with the private sector and various levels of government. The national research councils have been active participants. All recognize the urgency. All recognize the need for unprecedented collaboration and the educational, research and economic impacts of such an initiative. The technical standards for imaging, for metadata and for preservation, essential for a national collaborative effort have been developed in national consultations and workshops. Commitments of technology and private sector funding have been indicated and will be there as soon as we can issue The Canada Digital Challenge.


The Canada Digital Challenge will be guided by respect for the rights of creators and of cultural institutions and will commit to seeking new models for collaboration:

  • An open collaboration in which there is no transfer of ownership or rights;
  • Maximum public access within a framework of respect for copyright;
  • Free access to public domain and public sector content and a growing body of rights-cleared in-copyright content;
  • Reflect Canada's linguistic and cultural diversity;
  • Create and maintain content according to international preservation standards;
  • Ensure the long-term access for future generations.

The Canada Digital Challenge

This is a call to action on the part of all governments, all colleges and universities, NGOs, and research institutions to help do their part to create the digital nation.

A national board will drive the effort as a matter of urgency, launch the publicity campaign for the challenge and establish an interactive discussion on issues and priorities, through research, inform the dialogue issues, establish the national priorities, confirm the standards and requirements for participation, provide funding through contracts or grants, and oversee the viability of the infrastructure.

Prominent Canadians will be invited to become a forum of Digital Nation Ambassadors, involving the news media and advocating broad involvement in the Challenge.

Governments will be asked to seed The Challenge and establish the permanent infrastructure necessary to sustain it, with broadband access and a trusted digital repository for the long-term. They will also be encouraged to improve their productivity and their policy capability by digitizing their own publications and accumulated consultants studies. They will be asked to match private sector contributions to provide incentives and assistance in digitizing bodies of materials identified as priorities.

The private sector will donate the latest Canadian search and retrieval content management software and will be asked to donate funds or services in support of the national vision.

All universities and colleges, all cultural institutions, all NGOs, will be challenged to participate and place their unique source materials online and to develop research programs using the growing body of online materials.

The return on this capital investment and voluntary effort will be real and quickly visible. Beginning with the creation of jobs and training in new technology in various centres across Canada, an open collaboration across the information institutions and private sector firms will drive innovation and the solution of issues in search and retrieval and in electronic preservation for the growing multi-media, multi-lingual resource base. Others will work on integrating multi-media documents from a variety of sources for access on mobile devices. These are key issues in today's marketplace. Such national collaboration across sectors will be unique and will provide a marketable Canadian solution to a key challenge of the digital economy. For governments, for the first time, their accumulated publications, research reports, consultant studies will be available at the desk top to inform public policy development in all governments and across departments. The easy availability of published government information will serve to encourage informed citizen participation in public life and will assist the NGOs. University research in all disciplines related to the study of Canada will have an effective new resource, leading to new insight and fields of inquiry. Equally the private sector will have access to key information about the country to assist in their decision making. In terms of international aid, a great deal of Canadian research on social and economic issues sits dormant on shelves when it could be informing efforts at supply in developing countries. Along the way, private sector, governments and the creative community can come together to explore new technology-enabled business models for Canadian writing and publishing. The entire endeavour will be carried out in a Web 3.0 context with active involvement of citizens, especially young people, as the project evolves.

The real impact of The Canada Digital Challenge will be seen as much in the process as in the tangible output. To be successful, the Challenge, like that facing Canada in the new economy requires us to model new forms of cross-sector collaboration and citizen engagement. That is what will demonstrate our leadership to the world. It is less a capital project than a new way of interacting and behaving; of helping our institutions adapt to the real potential and the demands of the new technology. Its major impacts can be seen but through a glass darkly, but the impacts in business, in government, in the social sciences and humanities and in innovation and creativity will be clear short term, the full implications will be seen in decades. Like previous nation-building endeavours, like investing in railways and canals, highways and CANARIE, the long term benefits far outweigh foreseeable start up costs.

The Canada Digital Challenge is a powerful appeal to the public imagination. It will be driven by the most advanced Canadian search and retrieval software and linked to every classroom, library and home computer. A key part of the infrastructure will be a commitment to preservation through a small network of trusted digital repositories. Smaller governments and the NGOs will invest in digitization if the network will handle the technically-demanding task of digital preservation. With catalytic funding from the federal and several provincial governments and with active support from the private sector and universities, The Canada Digital Challenge will engage the imagination of young Canadians and expand quickly into a dynamic national project. From the reaction around Canada 3.0 Forum, it is time to unleash The Canada Digital Challenge.

Now, let's skate to where the puck is going. Team Canada 3.0 is ready.

Ian E. Wilson, CM, D.Litt, LL.D. (honorable)
Executive Director,
The Stratford Institute
6 Wellington Street
Stratford, Ontario
N5A 2L2


The public consultation period ended on July 13, 2010, at which time this website was closed to additional comments and submissions.

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