CLA Submission to Federal Digital Economy Consultation

The Canadian Library Association  has made a submission  to the federal government’s Digital Economy Consultation.

The consultation is being conducted jointly by Industry Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, and Canadian Heritage.

All submissions and consultation documents can be found at:  http://de-en.gc.ca/en/home/

Summary of Key Messages

  1. Improving the digital literacy of all Canadians must be priority of governments, starting with school age children. School libraries and librarians are uniquely positioned to provide this training in schools.
  2. Licensed electronic resources that students learn to use in school must be available to these same students as adults through libraries and through places of work.
  3. The Government of Canada should ensure that it invests in the Canadian public as a key strategy in the development of a digital economy. Libraries and librarians can assist, using their expertise to ensure that, when they search the web, Canadians are more likely to discover Canadian services and content.
  4. The Government of Canada should strengthen Canadian culture and heritage by making it easier for Canadians to find valuable heritage material on-line. This will give Canadians more reasons why they should become digitally literate, allowing them to use computers for other purposes.
  5. Digital locks, as proposed in Bill-32, will act as a brake on the development of new applications and services. Allowing copyright holders the almost unlimited ability to determine how their products will be used creates a digital economy that cannot be monitored or regulated in the public interest.
  6. The demand for greater broadband access is not a rural issue alone. Canadians who live in poverty, new Canadians, and people with special needs tend to congregate in Canada’s cities. While broadband may technically be available in those cities, it is not available to many urban or rural Canadians without public access computing. Canada’s Community Access Program needs to be strengthened and guaranteed on an on-going basis.
  7. The explosion of social networking services and the anticipated explosion of the use of on-line productivity tools mean that today’s acceptable broadband access will soon become far too slow for many Canadians.
  8. All levels of government in Canada are committed to ensure that Canadians, regardless of special or unique needs, have equitable access to information and services. ICT offers unprecedented potential to make information and services available. So far, government commitment to accessibility has not been matched by any commitment to fund the transition to equitable and accessible service. We encourage the Government of Canada to support the goals of accessible and equitable information services with realistic targets based on funding.
  9. Agencies and departments of the Government of Canada commonly tell people that they can access government forms, documents and services through a website or through libraries. People who then come to libraries become angry at library staff for not instantly providing them with the forms they had been told were available. The Government of Canada needs to work with CLA to develop model service agreements for government services in libraries.
  10. Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage frequently mentions the necessity of governments to act as model users of ICT. The Government of Canada has the opportunity to become a model by ensuring that the public sector data and information it collects is openly accessible, using open standards that can be migrated to any software platform.
  11. Research that is supported, even in part, by public funding should be visible to all, with an embargo period of no more than six months.

Concluding Comments

The Canadian Library Association agrees in principle with the directions outlined in Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage. We believe that Canada’s libraries can and should play an important role in the development of a stronger digital economy. At the same time, we feel that Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage places too little emphasis on individual Canadians as consumers of digital services and on the value of content and roadmaps to assist Canadians.

The Canadian Library Association has long maintained that Canada needs to place as much emphasis on the content of the broadband highway it is creating as it does on the highway itself. If not, Canada runs the risk that the highway we build will direct Canadians to other countries and to other economies.

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