While we wait for the provincial government to make a decision on the best location in the region for a correctional facility, let’s begin to discuss another opportunity to bring jobs to our region — one that is sure to gain significant support. We often talk about clean industry, and other than farming, there is nothing greener and cleaner than jobs in information and communications technology. IBM has stated that the Okanagan is the best site in North America to build data centres.
The question is: what do we need in order to become a hub for information technology business?
Quite simply, we need to begin by connecting Penticton to Kelowna with a high-capacity fiber link (running through the communities of Peachland and Summerland), with the goal of eventually linking the entire Okanagan Valley. At this point, Canada has some of the highest costs, yet lowest service ICT (Information Communication Technology) providers in the world. We can focus on sharing technology in order to find efficiencies. Imagine the possibilities of providing e-health and research opportunities for better, more responsive health care while containing costs. There could be new opportunities for public and private sectors to work together to reduce capital and infrastructure costs.
Other provinces are already moving ahead with plans to upgrade to high-speed next-generation internet — for example, Quebec has committed $900 million to build on the green information technology economy.
Once a high-capacity fibre line has been secured, our communities and chambers of commerce can continue to market the region as one that has it all for the ultimate in quality of life, with the added advantage of meeting the infrastructure requirements for technology-based businesses and jobs.
Locally, provincially and federally, we need to work together to build prosperity and bring opportunities to the region. I’m often reminded of the words of Chief Clarence Louie: “The economic horse pulls the social cart.” In order to support health, education and social programs, we first must ensure that people have good jobs.