Opening Address at the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN) Canada 3.0 Digital Media Forum
Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I am delighted to join you from Brazil to extend a “virtual” welcome on the occasion of the Canada 3.0 Conference.
Four years ago, I had the privilege of helping to launch the inaugural Canada 3.0 event, and I want to congratulate you for coming together again to generate and share ideas for our digital future.
The fact that I am speaking to you from Brasilia underscores what we all know to be true: we live in transformative times, thanks in large part to the communications revolution heralded by the rise of the Internet.
So while I am in Brazil to stress the importance of learning and innovating across borders, you are gathered in Stratford, Ontario, to practise a sort of “digital” diplomacy of knowledge. Despite being thousands of kilometres apart, we share the conviction that the digital frontier is one of great potential for humankind.
Let me put this revolution in context, by comparing it to that brought about by the arrival of another transformative technology: the printing press in the 16th century.
The printing press emerged thanks to the contributions of Johannes Gutenberg, Martin Luther and Frederick the Elector of Saxony—the inventor, the creator of “content,” and the legislator, respectively. All were innovators, and each was critical to the success of the new technology, which transformed society and gave rise to a tradition of learning that led Western Europe out of the Middle Ages.
Today, the Internet is likewise transforming our experience, although within a much shorter timeframe. Where the printing press took hundreds of years to reach a majority of the world’s population, the Web has done so within several decades.
Rather than being the privilege of the few, this new technology is very democratic in nature. The digital era gives nations and individuals a new lever with which to engage the world.
It all begs the question, “Where do we go from here?”
That is what you have gathered to discuss. The four important streams of this conference—connectivity, productivity, content and capital—will no doubt help you to focus your efforts.
As governor general, I also want to encourage you to strive to look at the big picture, even as you zero in on the essential details of digital media. Ask yourselves: what is the role of digital communications in building the smarter, more caring Canada, and the fairer, more just world to which we aspire?
In looking for an answer, you might consider the location of this conference. The presence of the University of Waterloo in Stratford—one of Canada’s leading arts communities—is no accident. Rather, the deliberate aim of this campus is to blend the arts and sciences under one roof. It is based on the understanding that the digital realm has evolved from being a medium of numbers and words to one that includes images, motion and multimedia.
In short, digital media offer an unparalleled platform for creativity and possibility.
From Leonardo Da Vinci to Alexander Graham Bell to Steve Jobs, great innovators have understood that there really is no line between the sciences and the humanities—both seek to deepen our understanding and our experience. The arts and sciences together can help us to see things whole.
As you pursue the ambitious goal of ensuring everyone in Canada can do anything online by 2017—the same year in which we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of our unique Confederation—I encourage you to think of ways in which digital media can help us to build a smarter, more caring world.
I would also like to extend a special welcome to each of the international participants at Canada 3.0, including a significant delegation from Brazil under the bilateral Science, Technology and Innovation Agreement.
I understand that the next 3.0 gathering will take place in Paraiba later this year. I know that Brazilians are eagerly building on the promise of digital communications, and I believe that Brazil and Canada have wonderful opportunities for collaboration.
Our similarities as nations with richly diverse cultures, histories and resources can be a starting point. Between us, we occupy large portions of North and South America, and we are poised to thrive in an age where knowledge, rather than GDP or military might, is gaining momentum as the new global currency.
The depth and daring of our digital engagement is in our hands to decide, and we can achieve more by working together.
If the past is any indication, Canada will continue to play a leading role in the digital realm. Perhaps owing to our vast geography and our wonderful diversity, Canadians have long been innovators in communications theory and practice.
Arthur Kroker, the Canada Research Chair in Technology, Culture and Theory, has remarked upon the need for a revolution in the way we think about technology on the scale of the Copernican revolution that replaced the thinking of the Middle Ages.
Let our thinking include a commitment to seeing things whole, to finding ways in which technology can help us build smarter, more caring and democratic societies.
Through creativity and collaboration, I am certain that digital media can help us to expand our choices as citizens, just as so many of our past communication advances have opened up new horizons for humanity.
I wish you an enlightening and productive conference.