Quebec's government has unveiled a broad five-year, $1.5 billion plan to adapt society to the digital economy.
It entails ensuring that more citizens have access to high-speed internet and making sure people are trained in how to take advantage of it.
“Quebec is a leader in terms of digital strategy and digital transformation, so we really want to position Quebec as a leader that's number one,” said Dominique Anglade, the minister responsible for digital strategy.
Limited internet connectivity is a real problem in rural areas in Quebec, and that's something the province wishes to change.
Members of the Quebec federation of municipalities (FQM) told CTV Montreal on Wednesday that as it currently stands in many places in central portions of the province finding high-speed internet is limited to city hall and the town's schools and as a result the province's plan to ensure access is broadened has the support of manufacturers, exporters, municipalities, and other groups.
Access is hard to come by “for small communities in the different regions of Quebec, for the rural communities,” said Patrick Emond of the Quebec Federation of Municipalities.
Anglade said being connected allows more than just sharing videos among friends, and could be very effective in helping people cope with Quebec's winter weather.
"You have the ability to work from home today because there is a snowstorm, because you have access to high-speed internet because you have all the connections you need from your work office installed directly at home to do this. You can talk to your children that are away travelling somewhere because your Facetime connection is really efficient," said Anglade.
In addition to making sure every resident of Quebec has access to high-speed internet, the government wants to alter the elementary and high school curriculum to make sure students learn the skills needed to work in a digital economy.
It's also calling for public records, both municipal and provincial, to be online, for companies to increase spending on transitioning to a digital economy, and ensure that Quebec cultural products are available online.
"Everything in terms of the citizen is impacting the daily life at home," said Anglade.
In a promise that's been made by multiple administrations the province also wants to make sure health records are available online.
On Monday Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said Quebecers should be able to view their records online, including the results of blood tests, lab work, and prescriptions, by the spring.
Patients should also be able to book appointments online.
Premier Philippe Couillard dismissed concerns about security risks for patient confidentiality.
“There is an illusion that the current way of things is better in terms of security. It is not. You know, having a pile of paper on a desk somewhere that can be picked up by anyone is hardly something that is secure. So with the proper technology and the proper way of doing things, we can reach a much higher level of security,” he said.
Couillard said the public's input helped shape the overall policy.
“Thousands of people came online and not only gave their opinion -- voted -- on the orientations and the strategy itself which gives it a much higher level of validity,” he said.
The plan will be implemented over the next five years.