Canada’s Crazy Big Web 2.0 Project Starts Now

Watch out, world. Canada has embraced Web 2.0, big-time.

After a slow start exemplified when Canadian officials ruled out Facebook in government offices, the feds have contracted Waterloo, Ontario-based Open Text Corp. to provide the technology for Web 2.0 government projects (ITbusiness.ca). We’re talking blogs, wikis and social media platforms for 250,000 people in 58 Canadian federal government departments. This is a big deal.

The move may not be completely unprecedented internationally, but it certainly is indication of which way the wind is blowing as regards the relationship between technology and politics. Traditionally, governments of any political stripe, even in countries with well-established principles of free speech, have strived to control the discussion whenever possible. It’s not that politicians dislike free speech — Canadian MPs from any party would presumably fight tooth and nail to protect those rights for all Canadians.

But if the primary purpose of parties is to win elections (as opposed to actually running the country) then there is a simple tactical advantage in controlling the message. We see extreme examples like this all the time in countries with more authoritarian forms of government like China, Russia and Cuba, where media concentration and control is near-total (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace).

This is definitely a step in the right direction for Canada. Indeed, the level of involvement in Web 2.0 may ultimately become a benchmark for democratic credentials. Nice to see we’re going in the right direction.