At a conference looking to refresh a page of Canada's communications history, Premier David Alward recounted his province's own journey down
i-Canada, an ICT industry group and the host of the conference in Windsor, Ont., on Thursday, sees Internet connectivity just as central to the country's future as Canada's leaders saw the railroad more than a century ago.
Alward told a history of New Brunswick's Internet connectivity during the conference's keynote address. It began with initial communication infrastructure investments in the 1990s, later becoming the first province with 100 per cent broadband coverage and ending with sale of Q1 Labs and Radian6 and Xplorenet Communications Inc.'s launching of a satellite devoted to providing faster rural broadband service.
"There's a momentum and success which can help bring us forward to the next century," Alward said in an interview after the conference.
i-Canada envisions communities across Canada connected together and is committed to developing a strong economy through technological advancement and innovation.
Alward said New Brunswick's three big cities are examples of this: All have all been recently recognized by the International Community Forum as being among the world's most intelligent and innovative communities.
"What that brings to us in terms of capacity to build towards the future is tremendous," Alward said.
In New Brunswick, he said, collaboration between communities has been successful.
"I think there's a maturity now where we realize that yes, we need to compete, but at the same time our competitors have part of our solutions to the future," Alward said.
While much of the talk lately has been of Radian6 and Q1 Labs, Alward said heightened connectivity and an innovative culture in the province will help transform New Brunswick's traditional industries too.
Barry Gander, co-founder of i-Canada, said his group wants to see a future where the country's governments, citizens and commerce have fully harnessed the power of technology to become global ICT leaders.
"New Brunswick, as a province, has pulled itself together more than any other province in doing this," Gander said.
New Brunswick's investments in technology started in the McKenna days, he said, when government installed so-called highways of glass. That fibre-optic network underpins the province's communication structure, Gander said, adding that it has fostered an entrepreneurial "culture of spinouts."
"I think you guys have an innovation and entrepreneurial understanding that the rest of Canada could easily use a study of," Gander said.
While the conference's focus was on connectivity, both i-Canada and the International Community Forum recognize environmental consciousness as a key part of being deemed intelligent and innovative.
"The awareness these days is that with an increasing number of people in the world and a finite amount of resources, we have to be increasingly smart about how we deploy them in order to keep ourselves open to an unbounded future," Gander said.
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