JWR Articles: Commentary - Canada 3.0 2013 (Featured speaker: Kevin Tuer, Tom Jenkins, Chris Anderson, Jane McGonigal) - May 17, 2013

Canada 3.0 2013

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How much innovation will it take?

During Day 1 of Canada 3.0 2013, the most heard word was innovation.

Despite having shifted the annual digital conference from Stratford to Toronto for the first time since 2009’s inaugural event, Kevin Tuer (Managing Director, Canadian Digital Media Network) began his opening remarks by announcing the launch of CDMN’s youth program in the Bard's Canadian home. The incubator for the next generation of innovators is being hosted by the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus. A further partnership with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival will give grade 10 and 11 students a behind-the-scenes look at the digital wizardry currently being plied on this season’s production of the rock opera, Tommy—more about that at the end of the month when JWR will be on hand for opening night.

Relatively small-town Stratford still remains in the national spotlight with this ground breaking initiative.

It then fell to Tom Jenkins (Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Chairman, OpenText) to provide “The State of the Digital Nation.” The goal of the “moonshot”—anyone can do anything online—remains as elusive as ever. As is usually the case, Jenkins got right to the point: “Innovation is a global game,” he began before reiterating his mantra that governments of all stripes can best improve Canada’s lot in the race for digital supremacy (Tuer wants a win by 2017; Jenkins sees the global collective getting the gold) by “being customers” rather than “handing out money.”

Nonetheless, just moments earlier, he crowed about the Harper Government’s $400 million infusion of cash to the ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) Venture Fund—how Canadian is that?

Bemoaning “Sectional Regimes”—aka protected industries—(enumerated as transport, uranium, telecommunications, broadcasting, financial services and culture), Jenkins strongly beat the drum for competition as the key ingredient to pushing Canada ahead of other countries big and small that have embraced all things digital and put their money where it counts: in their high tech company’s coffers. Brazil is one of those. Now that the initial bi-national meetings between that powerhouse and Canada have been successfully completed, “Brazil 3.0” will become an annual happening, thus giving both Tuer and Jenkins a shot at proving their respective predictions just four years from now.

With a book just published of the same name (Makers: The New Industrial Revolution), speaker/writer/entrepreneur Chris Anderson gave a thoughtful, frequently compelling account as to why and how the Industrial Revolution and the Computer/Digital Revolution have—in essence—now combined to allow anyone to make “stuff” without prohibitively expensive equipment or years of study/practice to master makers’ skills. These days, anyone can be a writer, musician or filmmaker and—at the click of a button—share their sudden creativity with all of those who care to read, hear or watch. Not surprisingly, the word “quality” was not uttered, but when bits and pieces from this tsunami of work goes viral, does its intrinsic worth really matter? Or perhaps because fewer and fewer can effectively sift the wheat from the chaff “greatness, value, skill” can all be uncategorically measured by hits, likes and follows.

With such new tools as 3-D printers coming down in price just as laser jets did, Apple’s mantra, “Rip. Mix. Burn.” (referring to altering music to individual tastes) is now “Rip. Mod. Make.” For those savvy enough to download CAD drawings, modify them to taste then press the “make” button to trigger layer after layer of filaments gradually becoming your take on the object du jour (his daughter’s doll house chair project—which began life as a Broadway set model—was a prime example), turning bits into stuff is a snap.

Innovation for fun, then increased productivity was the theme of Jane McGonigal’s talk: “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.” I began listening all ears—particularly with the incredible statistics such as 400,000 years, so far, have been “lost” by those among the 1,000,000,000 gamers (defined as individuals who play at least one hour per day) that delight in Angry Birds; 75% of North American workers are not engaged at their place of employment; 99% of North American boys and 94% of North American girls average 13 hours and 8 hours per week, respectively gaming. McGonigal had near-giddy delight in reporting the fact that the fairer sex was rapidly catching up to the males.

Having never played a video game in anger (or just for fun), I gradually came to feel like an outsider with the several hundred avid gamesters around me. But when we learned that the number one emotion of the top ten from those who get their thrills online and from game consoles was creativity, it became game, set and match—I escaped to an early lunch just as some sort of world record for thumb wrestling was about to commence… JWR

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