Pushing IT advantages?

The TJ has an editorial today recommending we push New Brunswick’s IT advantage.

I guess I am getting old and cynical but I think we need to define what we want from a statement like that.

I’m thinking back to the launch of eNB (remember that?).  Premier Lord got up and said this initiative would be the catalyst for the growth of the IT industry. It would ensure that all New Brunswickers get to take advantage of the Information Highway (or something to that effect).

A few months after launch I had coffee with one of the guys involved with eNB.  He told me it had no mandate and no money.  It fizzled out after a couple of years and nobody cared one way or the other.

Having a strong telecom infrastructure is fine but it is, as the editorial states, what you do with it that matters. 

I worry with government that they think the journey is the destination.  Build a highway, invest in telecom infrastructure, etc.  and make sure you mention in the press release these two words “economic development”.   But without strategies to directly foster economic development you may as well work in these two words “white elephant”.

The Moncton-Fredericton four lane highway was laced with talk of “economic development”.  It seems to me there are less trucks on that road these days than ever.  I haven’t seen the traffic counts but I do know from my research that traffic counts are down on the Cobequid Pass in Nova Scotia since the four lane.

There is no “build it and they will come” economic development.  Not with IT infrastructure.  Not with road infrastructure.

You need to set the table.  You need to order the food.  Then you need to invite the guests.

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7 Responses to Pushing IT advantages?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Bang on. Actions are not results. How often do we hear claims of success and progress evidenced by:

    Setting up an office
    Traveling on a mission
    Organizing a meeting
    Consulting with the public
    Conducting a study
    Developing a slogan
    Updating a plan

    These are not results; they are actions which need critical review if they are not getting results

  2. Trevor says:

    The greatest challenge this province faces in relation to economic development & IT is that the beauracracy does not understand the sector. In fact, many people I meet and talk to about the IT sector brush aside the importance of the sector as a economic driver because they fear what they do not understand.

    If the province is truly serious about IT as an economic driver, it needs to transform the civil service and the politicians that “lead” them more IT savvy. Until that happens, you might as well talk to a wall.

  3. Anonymous says:

    David, I wholeheartedly agree with you and it is very refreshing to hear these concerns voiced through an accessible medium. The problem is that the Government will always be subject to the scrutiny of the voting public, who tend to be misinformed and highly resistant to increasing the presence of direct foreign investment. People favor the development of mom-and-pop style businesses andcry foul when a company like Walmart moves in and actually provides a valuable service. Sure it puts and end to the romantic idea of Bill’s General Store’s prepetual presence on Main Street, but it employs far more people and attracts other businesses to the area.

    The mentality of the voters in the New Brunswick is really bootstrapping the Government from attracting in international presence in our communities, and until we resolve this we’re holding ourselves ransom by throwing up the blockades against intertational industry.

  4. Jon Doe says:

    David, I wholeheartedly agree with you and it is very refreshing to hear these concerns voiced through an accessible medium. The problem is that the Government will always be subject to the scrutiny of the voting public, who tend to be misinformed and highly resistant to increasing the presence of direct foreign investment. People favor the development of mom-and-pop style businesses andcry foul when a company like Walmart moves in and actually provides a valuable service. Sure it puts and end to the romantic idea of Bill’s General Store’s prepetual presence on Main Street, but it employs far more people and attracts other businesses to the area.

    The mentality of the voters in the New Brunswick is really bootstrapping the Government from attracting in international presence in our communities, and until we resolve this we’re holding ourselves ransom by throwing up the blockades against intertational industry.

  5. Samonymous says:

    Your stance mirrors what I remember Mr. Dithers saying regarding the broadband infrastructure proposal from Industry Canada in 2001. He and the board saw much of the spending (broadband for every community in Canada, including remote rural parts) as redundant since advances were being made in wireless technology anyway. I remember one guy saying (can’t remember who?) it was like putting a high-tech mask on the oldest political boondoggle in the world — paving roads. Just in this case, they are proposing to pave the internet highway. 😉

  6. Anonymous says:

    So true. The kitchen table business that sells at flea markets and farmer’s markets can make for great social page reading but does very little to progress the prosperity of our province. The other favorite is tourism which, as you have pointed out numerous times, provides low paying seasonal jobs.

    Funding what are effectively lemonade stands, paving highways and ‘investing’ in tourism is not economic development.

    If we want to invest more in education and health care, we need to be bringing money in from outside the province which means we need to be exporting; and negotiating better deals with the feds.

  7. I don’t agree that giving incentive money to American multinationals is the way to go either.

    And this argument is just not plausible:

    > The Moncton-Fredericton four lane highway was laced with talk of “economic development”. It seems to me there are less trucks on that road these days than ever.

    I cannot imagine economic development in the province without those highways. I can’t imagine, especially, Moncton’s retail boom, without them. Pointing to them as failures on the limp grounds that “I don’t see as many trucks” is not remotely convincing.

    We can talk about what table, what food. But if merely building infrastructure isn’t progress, certainly, merely throwing food at rich people isn’t either.

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