Week 4 Building an Innovation-Based Economy
This module’s objectives are:
- to understand the importance of regional investments in the infrastructure (ie. the Internet) and educational programming needed to promote and sustain an innovation environment in the North
- to compare Circumpolar realities with conditions in southern locations
Governments have decided that S&T innovation is key to the future prosperity. They say, almost uniformly,that the workforce of tomorrow requires advanced skills and that society must be prepared for global technological competitiveness. This is a real challenge. How, for example, does northern Quebec compete with Boston, Mass for innovation work? What must Lulea, Sweden do (a lot it turns out, and successfully too) to attract big name companies to the region? How can a remote community in Alaska really make itself ready for the innovation economy? These are huge questions. Scholars and policy makers have written with growing concern about what they describe as the “digital divide,” the gap between those with ready access to digital technologies (computers, smartphones and Internet connectivity) and those who do not. When the world focused on hard-wire connections — a computer connection in the home, office or school — the challenge was really formidable. How could a country possibility wire up a network of small and widely scattered towns? The answer was that it cost a fortune and was very difficult. Satellite technologies helped a great deal, with special northern challenges associated with operating in high latitudes and enormous costs of installation.
The wireless revolution helped a great deal, as the costs of expanding services were much lower than for conventional Internet and communication systems. Over the past 20 years, wireless coverage has expanded through much of the North, although there are major gaps in sparsely populated areas. But, as is almost always the case with new technologies, achievement in one area creates other challenges. If wireless is an inexpensive way of bringing the new economy into the North, it is even cheaper to expand the service in China, India and Sub-Saharan Africa. In very short order, hundreds of millions of formerly marginalized workers, companies and communities have capitalized on the opportunities created by new digital infrastructure. So, the expansion of the Internet — to focus on one technology — did not given the Far North an advantage. Instead, it merely kept the region in the digital game. Oh, and to make matters worse, the wireless services in the South, including the poor southern regions, are cheaper, faster and more reliable (in some areas) than those in the North. While remote Arctic communities are adjusting to the possibilities of the Internet, tiny villages in China, schooled in the Alibaba (about which more later) “university” system are developing global businesses from next to nothing.
There is more to the new economy infrastructure than the Internet, although that is an important to the 21st century as electrification was to the 20th century. Here are some of the key infrastructure areas that merit serious attention as the Far North seeks to create a competitive environment and to lay a foundation for business development, work and an improved quality of life.
- Energy: The Far North is a a major disadvantage in this area, with higher requirements for energy (cold and distance) and much higher costs. Transformation is required here — and solar power is only a small part of the solution.
- Transportation Systems: The modern economy requires access to safe, cost effective and reliable transportation systems, including roads, railways, airfields and port facilities For the North, this means a transportation system that works effectively in extreme conditions.
- Education and Training:The new economy requires highly skilled and well-trained workers, ready to tackle the technological challenges of the modern era. The Far North, which generally has lower educational outcomes than southern areas (although Scandinavia does much better than most other Circumpolar area, particularly for Indigenous peoples), faces serious challenges here. If elementary and high school services are deficient — and particularly if the problem rests with science and math training — then the society will face serious challenges adapting to a science and technology-based system.
- Health Care and Other Services: Northern residents expect (and deserve) comparable services to other, southern areas. The high costs of northern service delivery — in medical case, social welfare, counseling and addiction support, etc — combine with the small population in the region to produce lower quality services and greater difficulty getting professional attention.
- Business Incubators and Commercialization offices:Advice and support for converting scientific and technological ideas into viable commercial products and services.
- Financial Support: Northern businesses require access to investment and operational capital. This means regionally sensitive banking institutions or, even better, regional sources of venture capital (venture capital provides start-up funding for new companies or money to expand into new product lines).
While the North’s deficiencies in all key areas are evident, the S&T revolution also provides solutions. The possibility exists that new technologies will help the North address its challenges. But remember that the same improvements are coming to almost all other areas in the world. The North lags behind in almost all of the most crucial infrastructure areas and needs to race to catch up. Meanwhile, those areas with advantages are moving further ahead and other areas that were not competitive in the past are catching up to the North and competing with the leading industrial nations. Just take a look at the remarkable achievements of Taiwan and China in recent years — and try to figure out how the Far North is going to compete with these areas.
Percentage of Internet Users (by countries)
The Internet has become a key symbol of the innovation economy. So many contemporary innovations – from e-commerce to tele-health – rely on the Internet that the availability and reliability of the Internet has become a central determinant of innovation engagement and competitiveness. Check out the data in this table – and note the rapid rise in global Internet use, the widespread use of the Internet in the wealthier countries, and the lag in Greenland and Russia. Within each country, rural and North areas typically do significantly worse than southern and urban areas, although the Scandinavian nations generally stand apart from that pattern.
|Percentage of Individuals using the Internet|
The following series of reports and documents explore one of the most important infrastructure elements in the innovation economy in the North. Read through them as you wish. The reports detail several key aspects of the northern broadband sector, including:
- The high cost of building Internet capabilities in the North.
- The unique challenges associated with providing and maintaining Internet services in the Circumpolar World. This particularly relates to the reliability of Internet service.
- The typically high costs paid by consumers and business users living in the Far North.
These reports outline the implications of the Far North’s status in terms of Internet services and usage. The digital highways in the Arctic are not as strong and dependable as those in southern regions.
Mapping the Long-term Options for Canada’s North: Telecommunications and Broadband Connectivity
BroadBand_Final_PPF_en northern connections.pdf
Broadband – Northern Public Affairs.pdf
Circumpolar Educational Attainment
If the Internet is the cornerstone facility of the Innovation Economy, advanced education is the human foundation of engagement in innovation. As you will see from the tables assembled on the next page, Arctic peoples lag significantly behind southern populations and national standards. This is, in significant part, a function of the experience of people in smaller centres (typically with fewer educational opportunities than bigger cities) and Indigenous communities generally. The educational lag experienced by Indigenous populations is particularly serious, for weak performance in this area will continue to leave Aboriginal people on the outside looking in on the emerging innovation economy. Check out the numbers. Look at the OECD reports on national educational performance. You will see some real success stories, particularly in Finland. But in other countries, particularly Canada and Alaska (USA), the northern educational challenges remain formidable. Notice how large the educational gap is in some parts of the North. This is not an easily addressed challenge, but will hamper northern development if educational opportunities and outcomes are not improved.
Educational Attainment in Northern Regions of the Circumpolar Countries
Proportion of the population aged 25 to 64 by highest level of educational attainment in 2011
(National Household Survey, 2011)
|Geography||No Certificate, Diploma or Degree (%)||High school diploma or equivalent (%)||Trades certificate or diploma (other than Registered Apprenticeship certificate) (%)||Registered Apprenticeship certificate (%)||College Diploma (%)||University Certificate below Diploma (%)||University Degree (%)|
Educational Attainment by Degree-level and Age-group: 25 to 64
(American Community Survey, 2012)
|Geography||Percent of Adults 25 to 64 with||2005%||2008%||2012%|
|Alaska||High School Diploma||92.95||93.28||92.99|
|Associates Degree or Higher||36.06||36.34||38.89|
|Bachelor Degree or Higher||28.04||27.68||29.18|
|Graduate or Professional Degree||10.05||9.58||11.34|
|U.S||High School Diploma||86.89||87.21||88.03|
|Associates Degree or Higher||37.42||37.89||39.49|
|Bachelor Degree of Higher||29.17||29.52||30.71|
|Graduate or Professional Degree||10.44||10.53||11.07|
Educational Level in Northern Regions (person aged 15 or over)
(Statistics Finland, 2011)
|Region||Land areakm2||Total population2012||Upper secondary education%||Higher education%|
|No education||Primary education||Post-secondary non-tertiary education, general||Bachelor and equivalent level, academic||Bachelor and equivalent level, professional||Master or equivalent level, academic||Master or equivalent level, professional||Doctoral or equivalent level|
Educational Attainment of the Population 25-64 years old
(Labour Force Survey, 2013)
|Basic education – ISCED 1, 2||49,100||34.3||49,200||30.6||47,100||29.2|
|Upper secondary education – ISCED 3, 4||53,700||37.5||61,700||38.4||57,600||35.7|
|Tertiary education – ISCED 5, 6||39,300||27.5||49,000||30.5||56,300||34.9|
Education level. Persons 16 years and older
(Statistics Norway, 2013)
|Basic school level||72570||39.2||67900||36.5||64862||33.9|
|Upper secondary education||79721||43.1||79689||42.8||81631||42.6|
|Tertiary education short||27822||15||32430||17.4||36903||19.3|
|Tertiary education long||4875||2.6||6046||3.2||8025||4.2|
|Unknown or no completed education||2178||..||2770||..||5238||..|
|Basic school level||42609||36.1||41191||33.9||39769||31.2|
|Upper secondary education||48851||41.3||49062||40.4||50729||39.8|
|Tertiary education short||20796||17.6||23805||19.6||27254||21.4|
|Tertiary education long||5914||5||7532||6.2||9694||7.6|
|Unknown or no completed education||1871||..||2535||..||4111||..|
|Basic school level||22931||41.1||21826||38.9||21241||36.5|
|Upper secondary education||22056||39.5||21773||38.8||22546||38.7|
|Tertiary education short||9201||16.5||10443||18.6||11772||20.2|
|Tertiary education long||1632||2.9||2056||3.7||2632||4.5|
|Unknown or no completed education||1219||..||1436||..||2783||..|
|Basic school level||1138619||32.1||1116735||30||1103238||27.9|
|Upper secondary education||1569779||44.3||1597491||42.9||1650483||41.7|
|Tertiary education short||651238||18.4||763189||20.5||887154||22.4|
|Tertiary education long||187799||5.3||242178||6.5||316670||8|
|Unknown or no completed education||68865||..||108177||..||160264||..|
Level of education. Persons 15 years and older
(Russian National Census, 2010)
|Geography||Population total||Postgraduate||Higher education||Incomplete higher education||Professional secondary education||Secondary education||No primaty education||No information about education|
*AO – Autonomous okrug (district)
Educational Attainment of the Population: Population 16-74 years old in Northern counties
|Primary and secondary education less than 9 years||17,892||12,262||8,167|
|Primary and secondary education 9-10 years||22,850||24,479||22,184|
|Upper secondary education, 2 years or less||54,113||50,197||45,978|
|Upper secondary education 3 years||32,646||39,052||44,521|
|Post-secondary education, less than 3 years||26,605||26,243||28,041|
|Post-secondary education 3 years or more||27,596||33,511||37,916|
|No information about level of educational attainment||1,736||2,353||2,942|
|Primary and secondary education less than 9 years||19,481||13,306||8,587|
|Primary and secondary education 9-10 years||23,847||25,181||22,613|
|Upper secondary education, 2 years or less||61,501||57,250||52,573|
|Upper secondary education 3 years||33,166||38,543||44,539|
|Post-secondary education, less than 3 years||22,679||21,861||23,333|
|Post-secondary education 3 years or more||21,383||25,812||28,926|
|No information about level of educational attainment||1,736||2,201||2,593|
|Primary and secondary education less than 9 years||675,213||515,236||396,175|
|Primary and secondary education 9-10 years||953,411||1,019,230||959,061|
|Upper secondary education, 2 years or less||1,700,932||1,617,994||1,535,188|
|Upper secondary education 3 years||1,205,500||1,404,852||1,605,392|
|Post-secondary education, less than 3 years||837,377||879,311||987,409|
|Post-secondary education 3 years or more||930,142||1,161,086||1,377,169|
|No information about level of educational attainment||107,994||133,726||146,600|