Yves Williams, a web entrepreneur, who is now doing AgentSolo, has a lengthy article about the need for the technology community in Quebec to gather and get the provincial government to come up with a digital plan in his blog.
This follows a recent action by Montréal bloggers last autumn, who sent a letter to Quebec’s prime minister, highlighting structural problems in the province’s technology infrastructure, as well as the sad state of small and big businesses which were lagging behind, outside of the innovation-hungry startups.
Yves Williams finishes the blog post about the need to go further and get all actors and the players of the industry to do something. You’d need to go read the post, and also go through the comments, which shows how his thoughts echo pretty much what many were thinking.
I thought it would be interesting to sum up the state of technology in Québec. This is not by all means an exhaustive post, by just links to a few interesting facts.
First, the last major works done by any Québec government was back at the “.com boom”, when the “Cité du Multimédia” was created, when everyone was crazy about the Internet and wanted to invest in everyone who had a website and an idea. The plan didn’t work out: the only industry which spurred from the government initiative was the video games industry, thanks from the likes of Ubisoft. The “Cité du Multimédia”, where new digital companies would be grown, with generous tax cuts, didn’t work out. If you go there currently, it’s mainly used by hip communication agencies and other companies wanting to benefit from the tax cuts. The initiative was a failed one, in my point of view.
Other initiatives, from different levels of government, were to put money in the hands of private angel investors, such as brightspark ventures, who’d in turn help local tech entrepreneurs. They also funded other initiatives such as AngesQuebec or TechnoMontreal (see here), whose goal is to gather the players of the industry and accelerate incubation and expansion of tech companies.
So it doesn’t really look like the Québec government isn’t doing anything to help tech in Quebec and Montreal.
What I see though from this is that they don’t necessarily know what kind of sectors to invest in, and also, they don’t necessarily “get” the best means to achieve it.
I don’t necessarily have an answer — and I am not even sure that asking the government to take more actions is the answer. What can they do? Install 1Gbps fiber optics networks, like in South Korea? nope, telcos are the ones able to do those things efficiently. Maybe have a law stating that all businesses should have modern websites and upgrade their IT infrastructure? hmm, no, that sounds like what “enlightened leaders” would do in Zimbabwe. Build data centers, install city-wide wireless in Quebec cities, or create more “IT organizations”? nope, again, would do more harm than solve any problem.
One thing I’d like the government to have is to get a highly expert technology person that would tell them when not to f*ck up. France has for instance Ms Nathalie Kosciuko-Morizot, “Sécrétaire d’État en charge de la prospective et de l’économie numérique”, who’s very dynamic in her role (see photos of her visit to South Korea/Japan to view latest technologies). The current US government has also an interesting tech focus, with the guys at Blue State Digital being the masterminds in everything web.
Another thing that the Quebec private sector can’t do is have huge incubator centers like this or this, so this is also something that governments can weigh in, but it would need to be driven as well by people who know what technology is inside out (instead of just throwing money at the thing, and believing the first digital marketing person who does a lot of noise)
I believe the current mayor of Montreal as well as different politicians had plans to “brand” Montréal as a city of culture and arts. I’ve read a recent article, in how Gilbert Rozon stated that Montréal should be instead presented as a city of creativity (french article - english article at the Gazette). He is a wise man, and if Montréal should succeed, I believe that’s how things should be done, a vision which goes from art, cutlure, technology, as well as other areas like design. That’s a city where Montréalers could thrive in, and the québec tech community should support that vision.
Picture Credit: “Do Schools kill Creativity?”, by djenan