Earlier this year, I was invited to deliver the keynote address at the 36th annual international conference of the Business & Economics Society International in Italy in July.
But COVID-19 intervened and the conference was transformed to a virtual platform. I delivered my keynote address from my living room in Fredericton, N.B.
The title of my address was Internetization: A Bold New World for Economics.
Internetization is a word I’ve coined to help improve on the concept of globalization. Globalization has reached its best-before date and has become an anachronism. And the word globalization doesn’t capture the empowerment of digitalization and electronic outreach. Internetization is globalization on steroids.
The gist of my speech to this elite group of international economists, business professors and public policy-makers was that COVID-19 has underlined the importance of internetization in the form of electronic connectivity and a global context for the 21st century.
The shock and awe spread by the global pandemic has been devastating. The best impact assessment I heard regarding the pandemic didn’t come from economists, sociologists or epidemiologists. It came from a six-year-old.
He looked me straight in the eye and with an expression of utter frustration said: “This macaroni virus has ruined my life. Why doesn’t he want me to go to school and see my teachers and play with my friends?”
This from a representative of the generation that relishes snow-days when schools shut down because of our harsh Canadian winters. At that point, the devastating impact of the global pandemic was crystal clear.
Internetization has featured front and centre in cushioning the knockout blow we received from COVID-19. There’s no denying that internetization became our lifeline during this challenging period of stay at home directives.
Internetization has served to transport our work to our homes. It enabled our children to take schooling from home. And social media has become a convenient way to connect with our friends and relatives.
Internetization was our enabler for birthdays, weddings and funerals. We attended religious services online, shopped online, received our newsfeeds online and completed our banking online.
We even readjusted our entertainment patterns, attending symphony performances online and watching sports on computer screens from a comfortable chair.
Self-isolation and the pandemic lockdowns have forced us to come to grips with our digital existence. Central to this is that computers and electronic connectivity have become essential to our contemporary existence.
It has been a revolutionary change to the contemporary patterns of our human existence, from our lifestyles to our daily routines.
Internetization is defining the 21st century and setting the parameters for the new normal after the pandemic has moved on.
But Canada has its work cut out. Too many parts of this nation don’t have the electronic capacity needed for the advent of the age of internetization.
For example, university students in some parts of Canada lack the electronic infrastructure and internet speed necessary to access their online courses.
In addition, too many high school and middle school students can’t afford to buy appropriate computers for their science classes.
Small and medium-sized businesses need government support to transition to an online presence to reach the virtual marketplace.
Sadly, many Canadians lack the electronic capacity to receive virtual examinations and diagnosis from their family doctor.
And the high cost of internet access prevents a large portion of Canadians from enjoying the scope and convenience of internetization.
COVID-19 has proved that electronic capacity in 2020 isn’t a luxury to only be harnessed by a few. It’s a necessity that should become a way of life for everyone. Internetization is the wave of the future. There’s no turning back.
Canada needs a plan that confronts the challenges and takes advantage of the opportunities that the age of internetization bestows.
Dr. Constantine Passaris is a professor of economics at the University of New Brunswick and an affiliate member of the Canadian Institute of Cybersecurity.