On June 17th the Council of Canadian Academies issued a new expert panel report, Enabling Sustainability in an Interconnected World. The report features some excellent and fascinating insight into Canada and its relationship with information and communication technologies (ICTs), with a strong emphasis on how this will impact the country’s sustainable future.
In short, the report outlines the many opportunities that ICTs offer with regards to achieving economic, social and environmental sustainability, but cautions Canada still has some way to go before fully seizing those opportunities. Though the report acknowledges Canada has a well-connected society and is a global leader in ICT research and development, it also points out that many Canadian businesses still lag behind in ICT investment.
Similarly, the adoption rate of technologies among Canadian firms continues to be weak and the country does not rank high in terms of ICT penetration and diffusion among individuals.
Many of these findings are in line with what Cisco has observed over the last few years: Canada’s innovation engine has stalled and we are at risk of falling behind other countries when it comes to productivity and sustainability.
Cisco Canada has embarked on a number of initiatives in the last year to ensure this doesn’t happen, including the $4 billion Ontario job creation investment; the upcoming Internet of Everything Innovation Centre in Toronto; and continued investments in university chairs and innovation centres throughout the country.
At the heart of all these initiatives is the belief that technology, specifically connectivity, holds the solution to Canada’s dilemma. As the report concludes, fast and reliable access to broadband networks is fundamental. But it is a solution that has many layers.
Though ICTs can point the way to a more innovative and sustainable future – by expanding access to information, generating economic benefits, and improving environmental performance – having network connectivity is merely the first step. The report notes that true sustainability will be achieved through the integration of various applications working together in order to provide the right information.
For example, accurately measuring water and air quality in a specific area would require a number of technology elements working in tandem. Along with reliable broadband connectivity, you would also need wireless sensors, and analytics to make sense of the data so that results can then be used to make valuable decisions.
This bringing together of technology, processes, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before, is at the core of Cisco’s Internet of Everything (IoE) strategy. Indeed, many of the examples cited in the report, such as smart grids, smart motors, and ICT-based irrigation systems, are great IoE examples, and touch on areas in which Cisco has been conducting work.
Canada truly is at a crossroads right now, and we need to make sure people are aware of not only the many opportunities within reach, but also what we stand to lose if that potential is not realized.