Submission to Consultations on Canada's Digital Economy
Soumis par Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation 2010–08–10 15:09:08 HAE
Thème(s) : L'acquisition des compétences numériques, Le contenu numérique canadien, L'infrastructure numérique, La croissance de l'industrie des TIC, L'innovation grâce aux technologies numériques
The Government of Canada is holding consultations across Canada for a Digital Economy Strategy. Digital technologies are directly relevant to the mandate of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC) and its three constituent museums in a number of ways which will be outlined below.
The CSTMC's submission is being sent to the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH) so that its submission can take into account the issues and opportunities we have in common with other Portfolio institutions. At the same time, it is also being sent to Industry Canada to inform the strategy process on relevant links to the work of CSTMC — within the Science, Technology and Engineering sector, as a federal contributor to Industry Canada's Science and Technology Strategy (2007), and as a member of the federal science community. Finally, it is being sent to the Office of the Minister of State for Science and Technology.
2. Background & Context:
A strong science and technology literacy mandate was instituted with the creation of the National Science and Technology Museum Corporation (now known as the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation) in 1991 and which includes its three constituent museums: the Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM), the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (CASM) and the Canada Agriculture Museum (CAgM). The CSTMC's mandate states:
To foster scientific and technological literacy throughout Canada by establishing, maintaining and developing a collection of scientific and technological objects, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, and by demonstrating the products and processes of science and technology and their economic, social and cultural relationships with society.
Therefore, by definition, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is an integral part of the CSTMC's mandate. As a result, the CSTMC has a direct role in:
- Fostering digital literacy as a critically important part of science and technology literacy, including youth and parents who are considering educational choices that will affect the science, technology, engineering and ICT labour force of the future;
- Showcasing and using the products and processes of ICT as part of the museum experience and as a means of reaching out to and connecting with Canadians, and providing enhanced access to digital content from or about the museums and the national collection;
- Demonstrating the social and cultural relationships with society as they relate to ICT, and digital media as a means of helping Canadians appreciate the relevance and potential of a digital economy.
3. Consultation Input:
Capacity to Innovate using Digital Tech (page 11–15):
Enhancing Digital Literacy:
The consultation paper identifies the important link between increased productivity and the ability to be innovative, coupled with the need for Canadians to strengthen their "culture of innovation" in a digital world. This speaks to the need to increase digital literacy within Canada.
Digital literacy goes hand in hand with scientific literacy. In 2010, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation commissioned Ipsos Reid to conduct a survey on the views of Canadian youth towards the sciences. This survey highlighted significant gaps between youths' appreciation of science and their levels of enrolment in scientific studies. Digital literacy can be a key pathway to addressing this problem and altering youths' perception of science as "boring" or "difficult" to one that is "interesting", "fun" or "cool".
The CSTMC's mandate as derived from the Museums Act, cited above, includes the promotion of science and technology literacy, of which digital literacy is an important part. Thus, the CSTMC could become an important ally in the drive to increase digital literacy in Canada, and create a greater awareness and appreciation of Canadian innovations and achievements in ICT.
As Canadians come to appreciate these achievements, they will see ICT as a tool to drive innovation, which in turn may help promote investment in ICT, thereby enhancing productivity. CSTMC has a key role to play in highlighting the understanding and appreciation of ICT in the lives of Canadians.
The Museums as Model Users:
The paper calls for governments to be "model users" of digital technologies, citing the use of videoconferencing technologies and the application of new or emerging technologies as well as social media to improve communications and better engage Canadians. CSTMC is looking forward to engaging even further with these new technologies as a means of increasing its capacity to fulfill its national mandate and ensure that all Canadians are able to benefit from its rich resources, regardless of where they live. These technologies will reinforce full interactive learning experiences, inspiring and engaging visitors, both on–site and on–line.
IC Technologies will directly support distance learning opportunities and interactive classroom experiences from coast–to–coast–to–coast. Social media is providing new opportunities to connect with citizens and communities of interest, allowing them to explore, comment on and contribute to the work of the museum. This can include "Wiki" description and contribution of additional metadata about the collection or the material and themes being interpreted. Good examples include the call for public stories about the experience of being photographed by Karsh, as a related part of the museum national award–winning Karsh exhibition in 2009, or the invitation to comment on social media about "What makes a car Canadian" as a key public involvement component linked to a major exhibition opening at CSTMC in June 2010. Furthermore, new opportunities will arise as the Canada Aviation and Space Museum inaugurates its new purpose–built distance education classrooms in December 2010.
Hub to connect Science, Technology and Engineering Sector:
Based on urgent needs identified by stakeholders during the CSTMC's national consultations in 2009 held from coast to coast to coast, CSTMC is currently developing a pilot project to set up a network for collaboration and information sharing to connect science, technology and engineering communities of interest across the country through a digital "HUB".
These are ways of directly demonstrating the important potential of digital communications and engagement in the ongoing work of the museums corporation.
What would a successful digital strategy look like for your firm or sector?
- Collection Management Strategy would call for increased capacity to digitally capture images and artifacts with their associated metadata, making it available to the public through digital media. Work would also be done to provide enhanced finding aids to ensure access to these resources. As a result, Canadians would feel more engaged with the collection by "adopting" it and making it relevant to them through their stories. Furthermore, using Web 2.0 and social digital media, Canadians could enrich the collection content by sharing their stories about the artifacts and making the collection relevant to different regions based on their experience.
- Visitor experiences would apply leading–edge technologies to interpret museum content for everyone, but particularly for the technologically savvy young audiences who have grown up on video–games, digital music and personal digital communications devices. In this instance, the medium is also part of the message as the science and technology of visitor experience and presentation would also be part of the subject matter;
- The clusters and regional groupings of communities in the science, technology and engineering sector as well as particular communities of interest related to S, T & E such as Agriculture and Aviation and Space would be connected through a HUB and networks supported by the CSTM Corporation;
- Distance learning would be facilitated by advanced digital technology and applications, not only delivering content, but by demonstrating what is possible;
- Skills development and digital competencies are an important part of our strategy. In some instances, long term staff needing to work with new technologies may need to be trained to take full advantage of their potential. Recruitment of new talent with these skill–sets will also allow us to enhance our knowledge base. Reverse mentoring of senior staff and managers by younger recruits that are well versed in social media and new technologies will be a good way to combine new market knowledge with corporate perspective. Long–term internships and work with co–op programs at college and university level will enhance capacity even further.
What are the barriers to implementation?
- Barriers include the rapid evolution of technological advancement and the training and core knowledge requirements that it imposes on staff;
- Very limited and insufficient financial resources are available to establish pilot projects, change to leading practices, and invest in demonstration technologies that showcase best–of–class platforms for collaboration, learning and visitor experience;
- Innovative partnerships (for example, the recent CSTMC partnership with Open Text) will be the most effective means of acquiring leading technologies to help meet the challenge of enhancing access to digital content and connectivity.
Building a World–Class Digital Infrastructure (page 16–19)
Broadband Connection to Museums:
To be able to deliver high–level content effectively, the Museums need to be connected to a large capacity digital network such as the CANARIE ultra high–speed optical backbone network. This will become especially important in the next year as CSTMC intends to develop the "HUB" to network researchers and institutions in the science, technology and engineering sectors together to enable exchange and collaboration.
Infrastructure to Support Visitor Experience:
A world–class digital infrastructure must also exist within the walls of the CSTMC Museums in order to support a world–class technology–supported visitor experience which provides interactive learning opportunities. For example, once known as Canada's most interactive museum when it opened its doors over four decades ago, the Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM) has not been able to keep pace with the rapidly emerging technologies and smart–building infrastructure. As a result, the potential to provide interactive and rich–media experiences within the Museum lags behind public expectations.
Of particular interest is the potential to deliver content directly to visitors' own hand–held devices while they are on site. There are now a variety of systems (PS or RFI driven) that will allow interaction with larger sets of stories and content that can be adapted to suit an individual user's needs. Thematic links between artifacts through this approach can enhance learning and enjoyment. This infrastructure is not yet available within the Museums' environment although trials are being piloted at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.
Other types of technology can be used to support an enhanced visitor experience. For example, flight and space voyage simulators deliver a more total sensory experience and respond to the higher expectations of a more sophisticated public. Furthermore, advanced technologies to support visualization, holographic presentation and more advanced audio–visual presentations are becoming the expected standard for national–calibre institutions. This infrastructure has come a long way since the carousel projector and dissolve unit style presentations of past decades.
Connectivity through video–conferencing, webcasting, interactive webinars and other multi–site web–based infrastructure is important to be able to break out of the geographic limitations that affect all of Canada's national institutions. Serving a national audience requires the infrastructure to develop and deliver content and facilitate a much higher degree of interaction, whether between the museums and individual users, teachers in a classroom setting, or among researchers in the scientific community. The traditional notion of travelling exhibitions is being significantly complemented by new ways to import content from other programming partners without the need to physically ship artifacts and displays to a new physical venue. We can see the day when Canadians from across the country will be able to virtually walk down the aisles of the museums and engage with the collection and interactive stations in a sensory–rich and educationally meaningful environment.
Canada as a manufacturer and exporter of leading–edge technologies should be showcasing them in a high–profile interactive environment that more effectively interprets Canada's achievements in science and technology.
Section 4, Growing the ICT Industry (page 20–23)
Canada's ICT industry plays a very important role in the Canadian economy yet is hampered by the slow rate of innovation and ICT application by Canadian businesses. The OECD has noted that Canada's labour productivity is now lagging behind other international competitors and our trade deficit is growing.1 This is linked directly with reduced rates of R&D and innovation.2 CSTMC has a direct role in showcasing Canadian innovation through exhibitions, outreach programs, honouring new inductees into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame and by providing leadership for the National Science and Technology Week. One of the best means of creating a culture of innovation in Canada is to showcase innovations through our Museums. Lack of public awareness about R&D and innovative technologies can be addressed through demonstrating these technologies and processes to the public as part of the museum visitor experience, or in support of distance learning and networked collaboration.
Declines in the talent base to support innovation must be addressed by a variety of means. One of those is to augment science and technology literacy, particularly concerning the ICT sector. By building awareness and appreciation for ICT in Canada, particularly with parents and youth, we may be able to stem these reductions. We need to promote innovation as an exciting attribute of science and technology careers generally, and ICT jobs particularly.
While existing federal investments in science and technology are at an all–time high, there is a clear need to increasingly support them with enhanced public education about the importance of the sector. Interpretation of science and technology can help grow public appreciation for our achievements and heroes in this sector. Enhancing the appeal of the sector can contribute directly to encouraging more young people to seek the education and training in science, technology and engineering that will lead to stimulating careers. Significant effort will be required to overcome key obstacles to science literacy identified in the 2010 Ipsos Reid study including issues such as low parental educational attainment, low family income, country of origin, and peer pressure.
CSTMC can play an important role in fostering a culture of innovation. For instance, we have offered for many years teacher training and orientation sessions for pre–service teachers. Beginning in 2011 we plan to host a Teacher Institute — a week–long experience for teachers from across the country that will ensure that both knowledge acquisition and skills development through experiential exercises are provided.
The CSTMC is also building a network of institutions across the country interested in sharing knowledge, best practices, artifacts and exhibitions. Canada's digital infrastructure will be key to make this network operate sustainably and seamlessly reach out from coast to coast to coast.
Digital Media, Creating Canada's Digital Content Advantage (page 24–29)
What does creating Canada's digital content advantage mean?
For Canada to have a digital content advantage, it must make much more of its content available in digital formats in order to facilitate rapid access to a broad spectrum of material of interest to or about Canada and its people and achievements.
As Canadians turn more and more to the Internet and digital media to satisfy their needs for information, learning, research, collaboration and socializing, key content providers must transform their services to accommodate this rapidly changing market. Museums are feeling this pull as they adapt to new user needs for digitally delivered content. The traditional museum model of on–site interactive visitor experiences has not been replaced by the use of new digital and rich–media content delivery systems in the same way that newspaper and television have not been replaced by Internet. They still exist but their operating model must change to accommodate new user trends and to follow their clientele into new modes of interaction. To retain core relevancy, museums must be at the forefront of creating Canada's digital content advantage, and no museums more–so that the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation.
Digital Content Advantage will also enable new interactions between various sectors. It underpins and enables the new Canada Innovation Centre project concept dedicated to showcasing and celebrating Canada's past, present and future innovations in science, technology and engineering and to creating new promotional and research collaborations conducive to positioning Canada as an innovation superpower. The Centre would profile leading–edge Canadian digital technology to support communities of collaboration and learning, enhance on site and online visitor experiences, allow the interactive participation of Canadians from coast to coast to coast in all exhibitions, and offer a web–based program of Canadian innovation discoveries and distance education.
Role of National Institutions:
Canada's National Museums have a special role to play and much has already been done by these institutions to digitize their key collections. Indeed, the CSTMC has made significant progress in providing online access to an impressive 57% of its collection. However, as the discussion paper indicates, the pace of digitization must increase. For example, much of the collection at CSTMC remains inaccessible in its current form and the work of digitization is slow as insufficient resources are presently available to assist with this work. Although previous initiatives such as the Canada Culture On Line program (CCOP) helped with this work, it remains unclear what funding and other resources will be available in the future to support improved content access through digitization. Therefore, the slow rate of digitization, digital imaging with its related metadata will inevitably continue without strong new programs which offer adequate resources to perform this work at an accelerated pace.
Making Digital Content Available:
Previous programs to support digitization within museums and national institutions (CCOP and the Virtual Museum program) have assisted many institutions in digitizing content along thematic or interpretive lines. At the CSTMC, virtual offerings exist on each of the Museums' web sites due to this funding. At the Canada Agriculture Museum, one can visit the virtual exhibit on Bees and their contribution to our food supply while at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum there are several virtual exhibits including the most recent one, 'Canadian Aviation through Time', where one can examine the connections between events in Canadian aviation, milestones in science and technology and events in Canadian life. The Canada Science and Technology Museum's upcoming virtual version of the "In Search of the Canadian Car" exhibit will be online in June 2011. However, with the sunsetting of these programs, institutions find themselves with a patchwork of material some of which has now been made available through digital channels, but much of their collections remain in analogue format that is not accessible on–line.
New forms of support are needed to continue to transform analogue content into searchable digital content. Digitization alone does not make this material accessible on–line. Appropriate levels of metadata and description will enable content to be searchable through on–line search engines and finding aids.
Existing budgets are under significant pressure so the pace at which digital content becomes accessible will continue to slow down unless there is significant new investment in digital content as a key part of Canada's Digital advantage.
Enabling Social Media and Creative Uses:
Financial pressures put pressure on museums to generate revenue from use of materials from their collection. This may, however, generate little revenue and introduce significant workload in managing rights and applications.
There is some movement internationally for museums to make their collection materials more widely accessible for use without charge. Museums are using social media to more effectively disseminate their collections and simplifying the rights issues associated with licensing by offering materials through Creative Commons for enhanced user access.3 This is worth serious consideration in Canada if we want to optimize application and use of our rich content, but the approach would require a close look at Crown Copyright and other rights issues. National institutions that manage collections for the public good could do better to simply make their material available more widely for non–profit use, and develop a different business model for commercial applications.
Building Digital Skills for Tomorrow:
Fostering digital skills development among all Canadians is a key challenge that the Digital Economy Strategy must address. This issue directly affects potential employers looking for people with the necessary skill sets to help Canada create and maintain a digital advantage. All organizations that can play a role in addressing this issue will need to work together to increase awareness and appreciation of the success and achievements of Canada's ICT sector, and the rewarding jobs that come with innovation.
CSTMC has a mandate to help foster science, technology and engineering literacy and can therefore be a partner in efforts to increase public awareness of the opportunities that the sector offers. This is an important part of building long–term appreciation of science, technology and engineering on a larger scale.
We also have a role to both communicate and demonstrate science and technology in classrooms through our education, distance learning and outreach programs. Working in partnership with educators across the country we can also help build keen interest among the citizens of tomorrow, and some will be inspired to pursue further education leading to careers in ICT and digital media. The ability to reach out through these emerging technologies not only allows us to see the application of digital science and technology, but to learn about it as well. For an audience that is accustomed to video gaming and personal communications technologies, it will be essential to use best available technologies and interactive content to maintain and enhance their interest. A partnership approach between content providers (national institutions) and technology companies that specialize in delivery and interactive platforms will be the best way to add value to educational content and experiences.
As progressive national institutions, we would work directly with colleges and universities to participate in Internship of co–op programs that could provide practical experience for students looking to strengthen their digital economy skills through the science and technology environment of the museums, and applying technical learning to actual communications, visitor experience and outreach initiatives that inform, educate and entertain our society.
As the only National Museums institution with a direct mandate to meet the federal government's new science and technology strategy, the CSTMC has a critical role to play in improving Canada's digital advantage. Furthermore, the mandate of the CSTMC relates directly to scientific and technological literacy which will prove to be an essential ingredient to awakening Canadians to the importance and potential of the ICT sector.
The CSTMC is presently engaged on a transformative journey. It has a new vision that will enhance the visitor experience by reaching Canadians wherever they may be, enhancing its environmental and social responsibility and improving its facilities. With the right support and strong partnerships, the CSTMC can be a model, demonstrating the best available technology in the fulfillment of our mandate. We have significant content in the national collection and can move forward to digitize and make accessible this content through digital media, but it will take additional resources to accelerate the pace of work.
As an educational institution, the CSTMC can help all Canadians learn about and use Canada's innovative science and technology to master the digital universe — especially through ICT assisted outreach, Indeed, the CSTMC is uniquely positioned to instill in the nation's children (and their parents and families) a well–deserved pride in Canadian ingenuity and accomplishments in science, technology and engineering and confidence in Canada's capacity to succeed in the global economy.
2 John Macaulay; Nation d'innovation : Créer une culture et une pratique d'innovation au Canada, Public Policy Forum, 2009.