Imagining the Internet (6): institutions

My thoughts on this issue are focussed on Canada and its continuing issues. They’re not intended to address how other countries will adapt, mostly because institutional behaviors differ so much from one sovereign nation to another.

Q.6 – Will our relationship to institutions change?

A. By 2020, innovative forms of online cooperation will result in significantly more efficient and responsive governments, businesses, non-profits, and other mainstream institutions.

B. By 2020, governments, businesses, non-profits and other mainstream institutions will primarily retain familiar 20th century models for conduct of relationships with citizens and consumers online and offline.

[my answer: B]

Please explain your choice and share your view of the internet’s influence upon the future of institutional relationships with their patrons and customers between now and 2020. We are eager to hear what you think of how social, political, and commercial endeavors will form and the way people will cooperate in the future.


“Generally speaking, the Internet has already brought fundamental changes to the individual’s relationships with both private- and public-sector institutions. But we should recognize that new forms of online cooperation will develop at very different rates in different countries. Consider some contrasts between the United States and Canada.

“This past year has featured a series of high-profile debates in both countries about the future of the Internet. The two key issues in play are next-generation broadband networks and network neutrality. For several years, Canada was well ahead of the US on broadband penetration. But over the past decade, our position has declined to the point that we rate very poorly on the metrics used by the OECD and ITU, and in studies like the Berkman report. While some discussion has occurred about the need for a national digital strategy in Canada, no tangible action has been taken. Indeed, there’s a good chance that policy decisions taken in 2009 will make residential broadband even less competitive than it is now. Meanwhile, the FCC is embarked on a national broadband plan that is likely to bring long-term, positive changes to e-government, telemedicine and other aspects of online life in the US.

“Canada’s fall from grace is not easily fixable – and it will have serious consequences for our online institutional relationships. We lack the kind of public-interest advocacy groups that wield so much influence in Washington. Nor do we have the taste for open, vigorous debate that prompts institutions to change. Most importantly, Canada has a legacy of cultural protectionism that favors institutional gatekeepers over end-user welfare. Our leaders will continue to worry far more about the future of “Canadian content” than the future of online cooperation among social equals – the top-down model of communication versus the peer-to-peer model.”