This scan was first published on June 17, 2020 and will be updated on an ongoing basis. Most recent update: June 25, 2020.
Alongside fiscal measures to help businesses survive the initial economic crisis, governments around the world are developing policies and programs to encourage digitization as a means of increasing productivity, expanding connectivity, and enhancing economic resilience.
Some government efforts to enhance digitization have been focused on accelerating and expanding digital infrastructure initiatives and public sector transformation. However, in addition to accelerating existing trends in digitization, the pandemic has also created the need for new innovative digital solutions. Governments are financing training programs aimed at improving digital skills of individuals and businesses, providing financial support for businesses that are seeking to establish or enhance their digital platforms, and encouraging an expansion of digital commerce.
This scan aims to provide policymakers with an overview of existing digitization policies and programs, both within Canada and around the world. Canada appears to be at the forefront of these efforts, with the Government of Canada and Government of Ontario having established a joint $57.6-million Digital Main Street program to support business digitization in Ontario. While COVID-19 appears to be accelerating digital adoption in certain areas of the economy, it’s important to note Canada’s position as a laggard in technology adoption. Compared to other G7 countries, Canada ranks last in information and communication technology (ICT) as a proportion of total investment. While emerging government support for digitization is seen as a mechanism to revive productivity and ensure the survival of traditional businesses, policymakers may also need to explore what other supports are needed to encourage lasting change in how businesses and public sector organizations approach digitization post-crisis.
This page will be continuously updated as more policies are implemented. If there is a policy we have missed, please let us know using this form.
We have provided the Canadian dollar (CAD) equivalent for foreign currency in brackets throughout this scan.
Public Sector Digitization
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed a number of governments to implement large-scale public sector digitization efforts in order to continue providing essential services.
- Argentina: In April the government launched Entre Todos, a portal that centralizes initiatives and platforms on topics such as education, work, culture, and entertainment. Additionally, the Cuidar app allows citizens to effectively self-evaluate their systems.
- Brazil: The Ministry of Infrastructure added new features to the coronavirus tab of the InfraBr app, enabling transportation professionals to obtain information on the availability of different essential services (such as restaurants, gas stations, and auto parts stores) and to identify where service stations are distributing hygiene and food kits. The Ministry is also implementing an online chatbot to support the interaction between government and society. Additionally, the National Land Transport Agency (ANTT) is fully digitizing the registration process of the National Registry of Road Cargo Transporters (RNTRC). At the legislative level, both the House of Representatives and Senate are using a specialized software referred to as the Remote Deliberation System to create a virtual floor for discussion and debate.
- Canada: The federal government has committed $153 million to the Digital Technology SuperCluster, which has allotted $30.3 million to COVID-19-specific projects focused on improving digital public sector service delivery and scenario planning. Additionally, the Public Health Agency of Canada has implemented digital solutions to reduce points of contact and facilitate real-time data collection to support public health measures.
- Ontario: In Ontario, 300 courtrooms have been outfitted for virtual trials, enabling lawyers and witnesses to join remotely. The Ministry of the Attorney General released a statement announcing a shift away from traditional investments and toward innovation and technology to develop a modern justice system.
Governments around the world are accelerating digital infrastructure initiatives to respond to the increased importance of connectivity for working, learning, and accessing essential services.
- Argentina: On May 18 the government froze the price of telephone, cellular, internet, and TV services until August 31, declaring the services as essential.
- Canada: The Government of Ontario has allocated $150 million to expand broadband internet across the province, as part of a previous $315 million plan developed to improve digital connectivity in rural communities.
- Colombia: The Ministry of Telecommunications commissioned service providers SkyNet and SES to increase internet access in the Amazonas communities worst hit by COVID-19 to connect residents, enable e-learning, and facilitate communication between local medical staff and health professionals in Bogotá.
- Israel: As part of the broader NIS 80 billion ($31.44 billion) economic rescue package, NIS 7.7 billion ($3.3 billion) has allocated to accelerate the economy via digital infrastructure projects and programs, including improving online access to digital resources.
- Lithuania: The government has moved up the deployment timelines of both its 5G and eSIM platforms and invested EUR 69.5 million in industrial digitization.
- South Korea: The government will commit KRW 76 trillion ($85 billion) until 2025 to support initiatives on digitalization. This will include the installation of high-speed internet in 1,300 rural villages and the provision of digital infrastructure (such as computers and Wi-Fi) for all public schools.