April 4, 2014 / 4:18 PM / 5 years ago

Canada proposes comprehensive digital plan after years of delay

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian government presented a long-promised comprehensive plan for digital communications and commerce on Friday, outlining efforts to protect online privacy, beef up cybersecurity and bring Internet service to every corner of the vast country.

The plan consists of 39 proposals, including access to the latest wireless technologies and bringing high-speed Internet to remote areas. Other measures would slow down the proliferation of spam email and promote Canada-related content on digital media.

Ottawa aims to put the measures in place by 2017. Some are already law, and others do not require legislation, while the remainder are expected to pass due to the government’s majority.

“Data is the 21st century’s new natural resource,” Industry Minister James Moore said in prepared remarks in the tech hub of Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario.

“The government has charted a path that provides Canadians with the tools, the skills and the protections they need to embrace these digital opportunities,” Moore said in a preface to the document.

Funding will include C$200 million ($182 million) to help smaller businesses adopt digital technologies and C$300 million for venture capital to be invested in digital startups. C$305 million will be spent to ensure rural and remote areas get Internet that is capable of streaming video.

The plan also backs measures to make it easier for Canadians to access government services and statistics online.

The Conservative federal government has long promised to deliver a blueprint for taking advantage of technological advances. The report issued on Friday is based on consultations that took place in 2010.

The plan also calls on Ottawa to help move huge amounts of archival documents, pictures and films about Canada online and to support the creation of more domestic digital content.

Even though it took years to produce the document, critics still found it lacking in parts.

Telecom consultant Mark Goldberg, who organizes an annual conference in Toronto, said he was disappointed that the government did not include an income-based subsidy to help put Internet connections and computers into 1 million low-income, unconnected households.

($1 = 1.0973 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Von Ahn

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