In the late 1980’s, all industrialized countries, including Canada, were in the midst of a profound shift in their reliance on the production, communication, and consumption of information to create jobs, wealth and economic progress, i.e., the evolution of the information based society. It was felt that Canada had not responded to these changes with the same vigour as other advanced nations and with the same spirit that was evident in its past achievements in communications. There were concerns that Canada was being left behind in the world race towards ‘connectivity’ and the ‘knowledge economy’.
The vision then was to connect Canada ‘from sea to sea’ using the new ‘information highway’ to unite and inspire Canadians in a manner similar to the ‘national dream’ of the railway a century before. In light of this situation, Industry Canada began to investigate the feasibility of establishing a national high-speed communications network for use by the Canadian research, development and education communities, and by the Canadian Information Technology (IT) industry. They commissioned a study of the economic, technical and implementation issues involved in creating a new national network. Industry, government, and the academic community expressed a need and an overall enthusiasm for the proposed network. The academic community, in particular, was very vocal about the necessity of such a network to the success of their research and their continued participation in the international community of scholars. They also pointed out the substantial benefits to Canadian education. The IT industry was also very supportive of the concept. Most Canadian companies were not able to afford their own test networks.
They saw the proposed network as an excellent vehicle to determine market demand for new products, test new technologies and demonstrate to world markets the success and value of their products.
Building on the enthusiasm for a national network that was revealed by the feasibility study, the Canadian Advanced Network for Research, Industry and Education (CANARIE) was created in 1993 as an industry-led, not-for-profit consortium with support from Industry Canada and some 120 member companies, universities and organizations in the public and private sectors. CANARIE’s mission was to accelerate Canada’s development and use of advanced Internet technology by facilitating the widespread adoption of faster, more efficient networks and by enabling the next generation of advanced products, applications and services to run on them, thus fostering long-term productivity and improvements to our standard of living. Over the next decade, CANARIE would have a critical role to play in closing the gap between Canada and our international competitors by facilitating and coordinating the broad spectrum of stakeholders that would contribute to, and make use of, the Information Highway and the information revolution.
CANARIE activities would support the upgrade of the existing Research and Development (R&D) and education national backbone network to progressively higher bandwidths and stimulate the development of products, and markets for those products, on the Information Highway. In addition, CANARIE was to help Canada move towards a learning culture and enhance our capacity to acquire new skills and knowledge. In these ways, CANARIE would contribute to the economic and social development of Canada in the 21st Century. Both in terms of its impetus and its implementation, CANARIE has been about Canadians working together to improve connectivity and collaboration. From the beginning, CANARIE took on a strategic role in providing a focus for information highway related activities and a forum for discussion among stakeholders, helping to coordinate Canadian efforts and lever available resources.
At its inception, CANARIE was one of the few organizations in Canada with an interest in networking; this was to change dramatically over the next ten years.
Initially there were two networks; an operational network, CA*net, and a National Test Network (NTN). CA*net was transformed into a commercial operation, from a not-forprofit subsidized network, on April 1, 1997, two years ahead of schedule.
Canadian telecommunications carriers have acknowledged the important role played by CANARIE in accelerating their provision of commercial advanced data communication services.
The NTN was established as a high-speed experimental network for use by the information technology industry for the development and testing of next generation networking technologies, products, applications, software and services. It was to evolve through a number of versions. The NTN became CA*net II in June 1997 with an increase in the network’s speed by a factor of three and an increase in reach to every province
and territory in Canada.
CA*net 3 was the world’s first all optical, broadband network and provided bandwidth capacities ranging up to 30 Gbits/sec, half a million times the capacity of Canada’s research network in 1993. CA*net 4 yielded a total initial network capacity of between four and eight times that of CA*net 3 through a series of point-topoint
optical wavelengths. CA*net 4 embodied the concept of a ‘customer-empowered network’ that places dynamic allocation of network resources in the hands of end users and permits a much greater ability for users to innovate in the development of networkbased
The value of a high-speed network is dependent on the applications that speed enables.
Where the physical infrastructure provides the power of the network, applications provide the intelligence. CANARIE has been central to Canadian network application development through a comprehensive set of contribution programs that facilitated the country’s innovators in research, learning, business, and health in overcoming barriers to the widespread adoption of advanced networks and applications. The multi-phased advanced applications program has supported hundreds of R&D projects involving literally thousands of individuals and organizations. Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) receiving support under the program were able to undertake research and development that was too risky or expensive for them to consider otherwise. The interesting work provided by such projects helped to retain highly skilled labour in Canada.
While the primary role of CANARIE has been funding the development of network technology and applications, CANARIE has added value to projects well beyond their monetary contribution. They have assisted in the development of sustainable business models and technical standards; their numerous conferences and workshops have provided a valuable venue for knowledge diffusion, the creation of new partnerships and the development of new communities of interest; and their project management support has enabled many new ventures to develop in-house capabilities that are being applied to other projects and activities.
By building faster networks and smarter applications, the ultimate goal of CANARIE has been to make Canada a richer nation – and CANARIE has been eminently successful in achieving that goal. While economic wealth has been a very important component, ‘richness’ in the CANARIE context means much more – CANARIE has also made valuable contributions to Canadian society and our national identity. CANARIE has continued to make social contributions in areas such as education, research, health care, and culture. CANARIE has been a powerful force in helping to
establish the Canadian identity and connect Canadians to each other and the world. In e-business, e-health, e-learning, and intelligent systems, a major achievement of the program has been the promotion and facilitation of collaboration among organizations and individuals in creating network applications. Since the establishment of CANARIE in 1993, Canada’s IT environment has undergone a significant evolution. With the successes of CANARIE and major advances in private sector national networks, Canada no longer lags in the development of its communications infrastructure – the primary reason for CANARIE’s creation. Indeed, Canada is now one of the most wired nations in the world with the lowest Internet access costs among G7 countries.
However, the development of high-speed networking is far from over; the race continues and Canada will need to work hard to maintain its position. The objectives of CANARIE
continue to be relevant, especially given the goals and targets outlined in ‘Canada’s Innovation Strategy’. The target of moving from 15th to 5th in international rankings of R&D performance will require the infrastructure and applications development that CANARIE has initiated and supported.
Canadian stakeholders contacted during the most recent evaluation of CANARIE indicated that federal support of advanced network applications and content Hickling·Arthurs·Low iv Executive Summary development (e-business, e-learning, e-health, and intelligent systems) should continue.
The lessons of the past 15 years may provide some guidance in determining the best strategy forward for those next charged with the task of leading Canada’s advanced networking efforts.
Over the past decade, CANARIE has shown that it has the knowledge, experience, and credibility to continue in its role of facilitating Canadian advanced networks. The new government has highlighted in the recent Speech from the Throne the importance it attaches to information and communications technologies as drivers of innovation and productivity. CANARIE has, since its creation, demonstrated its value in pushing the
frontiers of these technologies and can be a true asset to the government’s intent to enhance Canada’s capabilities in this crucial area.
Vers la fin des années 80, tous les pays industrialisés, dont le Canada, ont été confrontés à une véritable révolution dans la manière dont on produisait, communiquait et exploitait l’information pour créer des emplois, multiplier les avoirs et faire prospérer l’économie
nationale – ce qu’on a par la suite appelé l’avènement de la société de l’information. L’impression à ce moment était que le Canada n’avait pas réagi au phénomène avec la même énergie que les autres nations industrialisées, ni avec l’enthousiasme qui transpirait de ses réalisations passées dans le domaine des télécommunications. On craignait que le Canada finisse en queue du peloton dans la course mondiale vers la
« connectivité » et l’« économie du savoir ». Est alors née l’idée de connecter le pays « d’un océan à l’autre » en utilisant la nouvelle « autoroute de l’information » pour unir et motiver les Canadiens, un peu comme l’avait fait le « rêve national » du chemin de fer un siècle auparavant.