My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

My Digital Wish List

CBC radio show Spark wants to know what Canada needs to do today to become a major innovator tomorrow. This is an important issue with the election looming. In addition to interviewing technology experts, the Spark blog has asked listeners to submit their own "Digital Wish Lists". Here's mine:

  • Establishment of a Minister of Technology. I agree with Mitch Kapoor. We have a Minister of Health, a Minister of Industry--why not someone in charge of the country's technological infrastructure?
  • Better copyright reform. Bill C-61 has demonstrated that many Canadians care about copyright reform. Even if one is in favour of the copyright protection measures outlined in Bill C-61 (I am not), critics have pointed out numerous flaws that make Bill C-61 a poor piece of legislation. I want our government to have open consultation with the public to craft viable, enforceable copyright legislation that balances intellectual property ownership with the need for access to information.
  • More competition in the telecommunications sector. I am not a capitalist, but a lack of competition does mean that consumers have less choice. Here in Thunder Bay, we have one choice for cable TV service: Shaw. Until recently, only local TBayTel provided home phone service; now Shaw does too. Only TBayTel and Rogers provide cell phone service. That doesn't leave the consumer much choice when it comes to negotiating contracts. On a national level, a lack of competition stifles innovation and growth.
  • Nation-wide improvement to technological infrastructure. Broadband penetration. We need it. Not just fibre-optics right to homes (which would be nice), but also coverage in rural areas. Bring Canada into the 21st century.
  • Access to government databases. Putting publicly-available data online should be a priority. People need to be informed; an online presence is virtually a requirement for any organization. The government has already made good progress, but it can still go further and think bigger.
  • Government adoption of open alternatives to proprietary formats. The Quebec government was recently sued for buying proprietary software. While I don't know if I'd go that far, the government should explore alternatives to proprietary software. Otherwise, businesses like Microsoft and Apple have unnecessary leverage.

Technology advances too quickly for a mechanism like government to legislate in real time. Like any social fad, once a technology becomes mainstream, it pretty much stays until rendered obsolete by newer technology. Rather than trying to create legislation about specific technology, the government needs to establish a framework that encourages the development of technology along certain trajectories.

Part of my comment on that entry was included in this week's episode of Spark. It's also got an interesting tale from Bill Parry, an intriguing new service from Nathan Eagle, and a discussion on the French-English digital divide.