Canada’s digital opportunity
As published on LinkedIn
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much of how we live and work. And while some of those changes, such as labour market shortages and supply chain disruptions, are hopefully short lived, others will remain with us, including our increasing use of digital technology.
In a matter of months, the pandemic helped unleashed the equivalent of several years’ worth of investments in digital solutions.
This quantum leap in digitalization safely sustained economic activity throughout the crisis. One obvious example was employers’ investments in remote work technologies, which allowed millions of Canadians to do their jobs from home.
Coming out of the pandemic, digital transformation could play an even more important role by positioning Canada for long-term economic success in an increasingly competitive world.
Just as the Industrial Revolution brought about enormous benefits through the spread of productivity-enhancing technologies, the unfolding digital revolution has the potential to improve lives and create new opportunities. Digitalization can help entrepreneurs reach new markets and make products faster and more efficiently. It can help businesses enhance consumer convenience, choice, and value.
However, for these benefits to be realized, governments and businesses must safeguard public trust in the digital economy. An essential first step, now that Parliament is back in session, is to update Canada’s consumer privacy legislation.
Canada was one of the first countries to recognize that a healthy digital economy requires a solid foundation of consumer trust. In 2000, Parliament enacted the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) to support Canada’s fledgling e-commerce sector. PIPEDA helped e-commerce take root and flourish in this country by resolving privacy issues which had been limiting consumers’ willingness to transact business electronically.
PIPEDA has served consumers well for more than two decades. But the world has changed since the law’s adoption. When PIPEDA was introduced, the world was producing a billion gigabytes of data per year. We now generate twelve-times that every single day.
Given our new data-driven reality, there is both a need and opportunity to modernize PIPEDA to help consumers tackle the challenges and realize the opportunities of our digital economy.
The good news is that the federal government is well prepared to take up this task. In the last session of Parliament, the government introduced Bill C-11, the Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2020. While not perfect, the bill represented a responsible approach to consumer privacy regulation. It offered consumers a high degree of protection, would have enabled entrepreneurs to innovate in ways that benefit society, and largely aligned with the laws of Canada’s major trading partners.
As Parliament’s focus shifts from pandemic relief to economic growth and recovery, consumer privacy modernization should be a top priority. A recovery powered by digital transformation will only be realized if our laws adequately protect the interests of consumers.
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