Canada: the Internet’s bumpkin

We browse like maniacs, but how about using the Web to make and save money?

"We're on YouTube, eh?" (CP Images)

Yeah, baby! Canadians are the most awesome YouTube watchers and Facebook photo uploaders in the world, woohoo!

But deriving actual value from the Internet, as in jobs and money savings–you know, the kind of usage that actually matters–well, not so much.

That’s the conclusion reached by a new report released on Monday by the Boston Consulting Group, which looked at the economic impact the Internet has had on G20 countries. It turns out in Canada it accounted for about $49 billion or three per cent of GDP in 2010. That ranks ninth in the G20 and below the group’s average of 4.1 per cent.

The Internet’s contribution to Canada’s GDP is expected to grow to 3.6 per cent by 2016, which will place Canada even further behind the expected average of 5.3 per cent. By then we’ll be twelfth.

A few weeks ago, some observers celebrated the fact that Canadians are prodigious users of things like Facebook and YouTube as proof that the country is somehow on the digital vanguard. As I countered at the time, it’s one thing to consume the Internet and another to actually use it in a meaningful way.

The new survey backs that up, suggesting that Canadians just aren’t as good at starting online businesses, deriving value from e-commerce and creating Internet-related jobs.

“Our economic prosperity as a country will be increasingly tied to the ability of both government and industry to harness this enormous economic opportunity,” said BCG partner Tawfik Hammoud in a release. “Our data points to the fact that, across every sector, we could and should be doing more.”

The study was sponsored by Google, so it’s a good idea to take it with a grain of salt. Google, after all, has a vested interest in driving policies that will allow it to drum up more advertising dollars from Canadian businesses. Suggesting that things are not well here is, of course, a good way to spur such governmental action.

Still, where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. As luck would have it, a similar study from BMO Bank of Montreal, also released on Monday, found that only 29 per cent of Canadian businesses are successfully using social media. That’s a poor showing compared to the 43 per cent of businesses in the United States who reported using it last year (the number has probably grown since then).

When taken in aggregate with other related findings by the World Economic Forum, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and others, it’s hard to deny that Canada has some serious digital problems.

With the government recently sewing up several long festering technology-related issues–copyright reform, foreign ownership of telecom firms and rules for the next wireless spectrum auction–the runway is finally clear for a long-awaited digital strategy. There are no excuses left for why Canada is still the lone G7 country without such a plan.

Canada: the Internet’s bumpkin

  1. As I’ve often said, Canada doesn’t think of the future, nor does it do any forward planning.

    Content to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, drifting along in a fog.

    • “Maitres Chez Nous”. Sound familiar? But he sure caused “your average Canadian” a heart-attack. And it ain’t over yet

      • We’re never exactly on top of things are we…..

        • too busy rioting in the street over hockey games and green beer. And it’s not just “the younger generation”. where do you think they come from?

          • Seems to be a cultural thing all round…and it’s gone on far too long.

    • Don’t undervalue honest labour.
      Without those hewers and drawers you’d be pretty cold and pretty thirsty.

      • Nobody said they were useless. We say that no one looks forward past the basic resource extraction as economic growth.

        • We are honest,loving,smart more family. .. Come judgment day we will do ok. im not that smart, canadian and all…Ah but you should take all that wastfull money spent chasing pot smokers and jailing them and feed your starving people.

      • Well I don’t know of anyone who’s pro-dishonest labour….but we are top-heavy in the labour dept….note our unemployment numbers, and we need far more than hewers and drawers.

  2. What do you expect from a “branch-plant” mentality(reality). Do we have to wait for the Westons,Pattisons,Rogers,McCains,Paladeaus,Stronachs,etc to get the ball rolling? evidently..

  3. Yeah baby!  Maybe there’s more to life than ‘making a buck’ off the internet.  LIke, oh, I dunno, expanding your knowledge?

    • You can go to university on the web.

      • Exactly Emily, but it will be discounted because that’s not using it for business.

        And businesses use social media more elsewhere.  Do they make money at it?  Or, are they diverting resources that might better be used in customer service, research, or whatever?

        I get that “wasting time on Facebook” isn’t going to make someone rich.  But I do question an article that puts a dollar sign on “value,” as if that’s the only kind of value there is. 

        • Businesses are making billions on the web….but that poster wanted to ‘gain knowledge.’

          An education is the best investment you can make.

  4. Maybe the Canadians are waiting for the government to do it for them

    • Well the govt certainly won’t.

  5. I liked the fact that Harper referred to the report put together by Open Text Chairman Tom Jenkins recently. I hope they follow through on some of those recommendations. 

  6. Even though the US and its much larger population have an affinity for the utilization of social marketing and other such tools. I think it is more important to keep in mind a few facts.
    First of all Canada has a population 1/10th of the United States which immediately skews the comparison. Secondly, it might come as a surprise to some that although Canadians are influenced by American media and trends, these things do not define the average Canadian. In fact our culture is defined by many other influences on a global scale. Comparing a Canadians’ Internet Use to an Americans is poor science. Finally, for the purpose of this comment, if a like study was conducted to show which nationalities learn more from The Internet, I can feel comfortable in knowing Canadians would rank in the highest percentile.

    • Well said!

  7. I think Canadians may also be more skeptical as individuals when it comes to transactions on the web. Why, I’m not sure– but anecdotal observation seems to be that Canadians like to research or browse goods and services online but make purchases in person. Just sayin’… 

  8. I don’t trust any report on Canadians authored by a US outfit. Most have no clue the about real Canada. We have a wonderful lifestyle here in this country and I’m am very proud to say we are different from other countries. Sure there are some things we could do better……but there is a LOT we have been doing better for decades!

    • As a Canadian, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  9. Affirms what we always suspected: Canadian’s are generally anti-social and geeky, staying indoors on-line rather than interacting with each other naturally.  This is the consequence of two factors: bad weather for at least half of the year making going out problematic; and multiculturalism, causing people to stay in cliques or their own ethnic groups and be nervous about meeting people generally.

  10. another meaningless dumb non story

  11. another article slamming Canada, go figure! The fact that we have many world-leaders in technology and science is as usual overlooked and the number of Canadian internet ‘money-makers’ that are bought up or put out of business by American giants omitted – great story,  :(

  12. I guess usually Canadians go to internet for fun and enjoyed. Being in Montreal, I can say Canadians (Atleast Montreallers ) don’t plan/think about tomorrow. they believe in live in the moment

  13. an entire generation of Canadians sits in its basement gambling online, or “competing” with someone online for the most sumarines sunk in a game or some other waste of human cells and bandwidth. When they do leave the basement they’re junkies for tying up the net with chatter; but not much else. Canadians are less enterprising today than 30 years ago, and they will continue this decline.

    • ‘An entire generation’ – that is a little sweeping don’t you think?

  14. A few years back there were articles discussing the problems rural areas have with internet connections. Not much has changed, we have ONE high speed provider in our area.  When they moved their tower, there was no notification, over 100 households had problems (info garnered from conversing with local IT).  It took us six weeks to finally get things working again, no extra IT staff were brought onboard, just wait your turn.  Believe me if another option had been available we would have used it,especially with the “no service? sorry! pay your bill”. On top of service issues, our ‘ top of line high speed’ sucks according to our urban living daughter. Now consider anyone trying to run an online business in these rural areas, that is an extra stack of PITA problems, most business owners really don’t need. 

    • My granddaughter is a web designer and works from home….I wondered at first who needs a web designer…but I learned that most business ….even very small need a web site…we are all web crawlers and use the web to decide…who will do my new concrete….what lawyer would be best to handle a land transaction…what are the specials in the local food outlets and even grocery stores…every day we are on the web………who are we…….today every one uses the web to make decisions……………..so business is done on the web…what was that man measuring.

  15. Yah. Sure.  We need to open more computer places that call you up and offer to remove the viruses from your computer!  But seriously!  

    Social medial is Facebook and Twitter.  I have no interest as a consumer. I do not rate buying from someone by how good they are on F/B.  Nor do I go to any of their sites.  
    My mechanic, I picked because he is competent as a mechanic.  The guy who sold me my heating and cooling system, I picked because I knew him.  And so on….  Maybe Canadians are into dealing with real people.  I ditched Bell for my ISP, because they were real people.  
    I suspect I am not alone. 
    Besides, I got this email from some guy in Kanuck-istan the other day, By the name of Flaherty’mish,  He want me to help him free $25 Billion from his beloved homeland.  Apparently he’s going to give me a good cut.  I like this deal!   Again, but seriously….  Unless we are ready willing and able to start up our own version of Twitter — we could and should, because, really, Twitter sucks — I think maybe we should keep the course of running our businesses as real businesses with real people, not fake people on some web site.Canadian consumers are too bright for that.  Going into using the net, good idea.  Wasting our time?  Bad idea. The world needs what we have to offer.  And we have enough for centuries.  By then, we may not be using any internet or computers. 

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