This week we continue our series on the impact of digital literacy on Canada’s economy. Today’s post focuses specifically on digital literacy’s link to productivity – a topic that experts say is imperative to Canada’s economic future in the face of a declining workforce.
While there is no doubt that digital technology is playing a key role in shaping Canada’s economy now and in the future, the topic has not been front of mind for our country’s researchers. Michael Hennessy and Ted Woodhead of TELUS, authors of a 2009 white paper on the topic of wireless broadband and a national digital strategy, found in their research that there was little in the way of relevant Canadian research and data on the topic.
A new initiative launched by the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business is set to address this deficiency. Earlier this month, the school opened the doors of The Centre for the Digital Economy@ (CDE@). The CDE@ is supported by Bell, TELUS, Rogers and Shaw and will focus on conducting research on the growing economic impact of information and communications technology (ICT). This research will be used in developing much-needed public policy. With Canada’s population aging and the workforce declining, productivity is going to be the key to economic success and ICT the tool.
I got in touch with Ted Woodhead, vice-president of TELUS Telecom Policy and Regulatory Affairs, to discuss TELUS’ role in the CDE@ and why he believes this is such an important and relevant partnership.
Last year, Leonard Waverman, dean of the Haskayne School of Business, along with professor Jeffrey Church from the Department of Economics, approached TELUS with a proposal to establish a centre of excellence dedicated to academic research in the area of ICT and its link to productivity. Given Woodhead’s knowledge of the lack of research in this area and TELUS’ role as a leading communications provider, this collaboration was a natural fit.
“TELUS believes that a focus on productivity, IT and IT take up, digital literacy and our network capacity and readiness are very important issues in assessing Canada’s progress and producing policy options.”
Woodhead says that ICT is a major driver of productivity because it lowers the costs of production and spurs innovation in new products and services. This gives Canadian companies a competitive edge globally. With increasing competitiveness comes labour force increases, increases in overall revenues and gross domestic product and in turn, an increase in consumer welfare.
With such clear advantages, what’s the message for those in management roles?
“If management ignores digital literacy and ICT then it is clearly ignoring obvious and inexorable trends that other economies and businesses are following in investing in more efficient ways of doing business, producing products and delivering services. ICTs involve a constant refresh cycle and ICTs reduce costs, increase revenues and have a direct impact on productivity.”