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Canada lagging in ICT investment impacts sustainability

Expert panel report says new technologies will drive a more sustainable future.


OTTAWA — Canada’s sustainable future is being impeded by business lagging in the adoption of information and communication technologies (ICTs), according to a report by the Council of Canadian Academies.

The not-for-profit science organization’s expert panel report, Enabling Sustainability in an Interconnected World, outlines opportunities to achieve sustainability through ICTs and warns Canada is a long way from realizing its full potential.

It notes Canada is well connected, plus industry and higher education institutions are leaders in ICT research and development, but businesses lag in technology investment and the country is not highly ranked for ICT penetration and diffusion among individuals.

The panel determined that no single technological opportunity will achieve sustainability for Canada on its own.

“The integration of ICT is fundamental to its success,” said David Miller, the panel’s chair. “For example, wireless sensor networks in remote areas could provide valuable baseline information to both decision-makers and the public about water and air quality. However this requires reliable broadband connectivity, analytics to make sense of the data, and a proper level of standardization and openness so that the results can be used to inform decisions.”

The report explores other opportunities, ranging from small-scale changes, such as the use of applications that inform consumers of household water use, to large-scale changes such as replacing aging utility networks with smart grid technologies.

Practical examples include:

• Smart grids that could transform how utilities are produced and delivered across Canada minimizing environmental impacts such as electricity and water losses in distribution, reducing costs for operators and consumers, and ensuring reliability of service.

• Smart motors that could make manufacturing equipment and processes more efficient, reducing GHG emissions, and decreasing operating costs.

• ICT-based irrigation systems that could improve water efficiency and change how food is moved from farm to table.

The panel concluded the power of these ICTs can be unleashed through open data policies ‎and by improving connectivity.

This report is the result of an Environment Canada request to assemble a multidisciplinary expert panel and assess the existing or potential opportunities for ICTs to contribute to a “greener” Canada.

Visit www.scienceadvice.ca to download a copy of the report.

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