People love to talk. It’s in our nature. We’re social creatures.
At some point, however, if you want to get anything done, you have to stop talking and start doing.
There is a big conference in Stratford this week called “Canada 3.0.“ One of the major sponsors apparently has something to do with the recent government spend of $10 million plus to “stimulate” things through creation of some sort of “Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR).”
The stated purpose is to “create jobs, improve the quality of life of all Canadians and strengthen the economy for future generations.”
This is all fine and good. Every project needs a high-level/brainstorming phase. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be many (any?) specific goals about how this is all going to work.
You see, there are some severe, systematic problems in Canada that tend to destroy innovation in the early stages. Let’s have a look at some pretty graphs.
In 2000, Canada was leading the way with broadband penetration:
Can you spot the difference in the 2006 graph?
Similarly, back in 1995, Canada was among the leaders in mobile technology:
But by 2005, something had changed:
Canada is behind many nations that have small fractions of our GDP. Keep in mind these are plotted logarithmically. So, for instance, Israel’s mobile reach is more than double Canada’s rate.
If you think these charts are scary, head to www.gapminder.org and run the animations. The most alarming thing is the speed at which we’ve been overtaken. I’m sure the more recent data will look far bleaker.
And don’t give me the old “Canada is so big” argument. Most Canadians live in large, densely populated cities, just like everywhere else in the world. Plus, we used be to way ahead, despite our huge land area. And Russia is just as big and vast as our country, yet they have nearly twice as many cell phones per person.
Why have we fallen behind? Because the government has been asleep at the wheel, letting a few private corporations bleed everyone else dry charging premium rates for old, obsolete technology.
They have no incentive to invest in R&D, because there is no competition in the mobile phone or broadband internet categories. Meanwhile, the government keeps passing laws and making rulings to help these companies expand and protect their monopolies, killing any incentive for new or even existing international companies to take them on.
This is really freaking basic economics, folks. High-school economics. Maybe first year college.
If we want to “create jobs, improve the quality of life of all Canadians and strengthen the economy for future generations” it’s going to take a hell of a lot more then some “center” with no clearly defined purpose.
Instead, let’s allocate a couple bucks towards enforcing the Canada Competition Act, which supposedly “contains both criminal and civil provisions aimed at preventing anti-competitive practices in the marketplace.”
Let’s bust up these old cartels that are cutting off the oxygen supply.
That’s the only way we’ll have even a small chance of keeping pace with the rest of the world.
So please - at some point in the near future, stop talking about “ways to innovate”, and start doing something to make it happen!