The second morning plenary session of Canada 3.0 was a curious mix of international opportunity, a further call to action, something old becoming digitally less imaginative, a troubling report card and a pair of entrepreneurial case studies with decidedly different viewpoints of “loving your work. No one can complain that this year’s edition doesn’t have variety!
Canadian Digital Media Network Managing Director Kevin Tuer re-welcomed the assemblage (much smaller at first before the party animals drifted into their places—getting digitally wired took on new meaning at last night’s post-conference festivities) and treated those present with a retro video of Kim Mitchell (Tuesday’s featured entertainer). He then succinctly summed up the task at hand: “We’ve proven we’ve got the ingredients—let’s bake the cake.”
Due to an unexpected system crash just as he world première of Shakespeare à la motion capture technology (and some inventive time fill by the virtually unflappable host, Heather Hiscox), the subject matter made a quantum leap from The Bard to ICT in Brazil.
Rômulo Neves (Head of the Division for the Information Society, Ministry of External Relations) served as spokesman for his 34 colleagues who have journeyed to Canada in search of digital ecosystem models, particularly for Brazil’s emerging small- and micro-sized companies. With six times Canada’s population and similar geographical challenges—notably delivering broadband connectivity to its vast rural area—there ought to be many synergies between the two nations. Let’s hope Canada will be able to provide the requisite expertise and resources despite the coming caution when the annual report card, “The Stratford Report,” is released.
Following a successful reboot and a generous amount of time to complete any final tweaks, Morro Images fired up 16 cameras and three jumbo screens to bring a scene from Shakespeare’s The Tempest into the conference. On stage were two of the Stafford Festival’s most accomplished actors (Geraint Wyn Davies as Prospero, Claire Lautier as Miranda) while Pascal Langlois—decked out in a specially made body suit in the foyer—took the role of Caliban. One screen showed Langlois as he appeared prior to digitization, another became the domain of the thespians while the third placed one of Shakespeare’s most colourful, pathetic character’s into a somewhat confined space, now rendered like Spiderman on a drab wardrobe day. All of this was in support of the day’s theme: “Culture in the Digital Society.” It was a bit disconcerting (from a theatrical point of view) to see so little movement for a scene that is so full of revelation. Davies and Lautier were compelled to stand, deliver and stare at the object of their lines rather than convincingly engage with him. Let’s hope the artistic trust on the Avon enjoys this “demonstration” as a novelty but doesn’t get swept away with beaming cartoon-like characters into the Festival Theatre. After all, many patrons go to the theatre for relief from “screenmania” that is fast becoming the ubiquitous hallmark of a digital nation.
Ian Wilson followed the theatrics with a sobering report card for Canada’s readiness to once again become a world leader in digital communication. The good news: more Canadians than ever are using the Internet (averaging over 43 hours per week and the rollout of broadband is allowing more and more Canadians to get connected—and say hello to monthly fees from the providers, of course). With statistics provided by OECD, Canada is steadily losing ground compared with other nations, ranking 31st from a global pool of 138 (the full report can be found online). Wilson pulled no punches. Despite having positive words from the Minister of Industry yesterday (cross-reference below), the fact remains that government cuts and lack of lead-by-example in embracing digital technologies are having dire effects: “This is a strategically mistaken choice,” opined the executive director of the Stratford Institute for Digital Media. If the federal government chooses not to become a model user, why should other jurisdictions or organizations?
It is exceedingly ironic that while governments have funded a good deal of Canada 3.0 since its inception and support the “Moonshot” goal to become a digital nation by 2017 (“Anyone can do anything on line by 2017”), they lag behind in putting their own technology requirements in line with their policy objectives. Lamented Wilson as he concluded, “Vision without action is hallucination.” Here in Stratford, purposeful hallucination is one of the local economy’s main drivers. In the real world, costumes, set speeches and lavish designs cannot disguise the false fronts of aging infrastructure.
For the rest of the morning, the day’s topic slipped off the agenda, never to return. Two young, vibrant entrepreneur’s regaled he crowd with their first forays into the business world, neither of which had much to do with the digitization of anything. Supposedly, their stories were to be pep talks for taking bold action, but came across as two speakers who’d been given the wrong address to the venue for their presentations.
Lisa von Sturmer, co-founder of Growing City (compost removal for offices) only had the tenacity to quit working as a film editor and strike out on her own because she’s loves the feeling of saving the planet and living her dream life with the proceeds. Devon Brooks hates hair but has passion for building enterprises one core value at a time. Along with two others (including her mom who can’t abide successful women with bad hair) co-founded Bio Blow Dry Bar. “No cut, no colour just wash and blow”—who could resist such a cheeky venture! Both were somewhat entertaining, even as vision drift muddied Canada 3.0’s waters.
With just a few hours left, just, exactly, what will the action plan look like?
In his conference closing remarks, Tuer touched on all of the streams (Connectivity, Productivity, Content, Capital and Talent) as a series of slides highlighted an array of bullets that, apparently, were the findings of the past two days. But rather than being an invigorating plan of action that would push corporations, governments, entrepreneurs and financiers into the end zone, the largely motherhood statements failed to stir the blood of possibility, much less provide a blueprint for success. Class dismissed. JWR