5.37: Canada Can Contribute to the 'LeapFrog'

Northrop Frye once said of Canada that it "has passed from a pre-national to a post-national phase without ever having become a nation". Canada, it would seem, has applied the leap-frog strategy to nationhood. There are many ways in which it can contribute to the leap-frog strategy in the developing countries. Indeed, Canada has some Third World characteristics. More powerful industrialized nations tend to view it as a supplier of raw materials and a buyer of the finished products. In terms of the limited extent to which it has realized its vast potential, it could be considered one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world.

John A. Macdonald once described Canada as a country "with too little history and too much geography". Because of this vast geography, it is held together with technology - first, with railway lines and, then, as telecommunications were traded for transportation, with telephone wires. Necessity has bred invention. We have what is probably the best communication infrastructure in the world. This technology and the expertise which developed it can be transferred to the developing countries.

The author's what-am-I-doing-here? speech, which he delivers at technical conferences in electronics, was described above. The answer, of course, was that the introduction of new technology is not only a technical matter but also a psychological matter. This is especially important when it is being introduced to people of another culture. Our vast expertise in the social sciences (and reservoir of unemployed social scientists) can also contribute to the leap-frog strategy.

Canada is a unique laboratory for the study of the introduction of electronic technology in developing countries. We have an internal South-North situation which mirrors, in microcosm, the external North-South situation. Our native peoples, Indians and Inuits, concentrated in the North, tend to be living under poorer conditions than the immigrants in the South.

Introduction of electronic technology into isolated Northern communities which request it could help us understand empirically what difficulties would be encountered in introducing it within the developing countries. There will, of course, be incredible difficulties. However, it is imperative that we accept the challenge since, to return to the beginning of the argument, the "leap-frog" is the least of three evils. It may even turn out not to be an "evil" at all.