A New York Times article last week discussed a new strategy in Brazil that provides incentives for low income Brazilians to buy computers and gain access to the Internet. The Brazilian government believes that wider access to computers and the Internet will help stimulate the economy and improve the quality of life for the average Brazilian.
We had a similar program like that back in McKenna’s day. The Connect NB program provided incentives for New Brunswickers to go out and buy computers and get connected to the Internet. In the late 1990s, New Brunswick was sixth out of ten provinces for households connected to the Internet. As of 2003, New Brunswick was dead last among the ten provinces.
Despite all the talk of ‘eNB’ and innovation, yadda, yadda, yadda – there has been almost no effort out of the provincial government to stimulate Internet usage and to leverage it for economic development – especially in rural communities. There have been investments in rural broadband, but no strategy for its adoption or usage.
It’s time to bring back Connect NB and encourage all New Brunswickers to start using the Internet. Not only for personal use, but to put their small businesses online, to buy and sell in the international markets, to blog, to communicate – to open up our small province to a global marketplace of ideas and commerce.