Toronto’s Digital Media Industry – Who Are We?: Blog: Refresh Events

Toronto’s Digital Media Industry – Who Are We?: Blog: Refresh Events

Last weekend, I attended DigitalMediaCamp, a one-day unconference organized by the Canadian Digital Media Network and facilitated by Mark Kuznicki.

Toronto’s digital media geeks, freaks and elites gathered to answer this question:

How can we work together to propel Toronto’s technology, content and design communities into the future and make Toronto a globally competitive hub of digital media entrepreneurship and innovation?

As the day wore on, a number of interesting initiatives, including the creation of legacy projects (wifi in community centres) and grassroots movements such as lobbying companies to embrace open-source software.

I had the opportunity to lead a session that asked a question about the demographics of the digital media industry:

How do we mobilize and gather statistical data on our industry?

Background Information

When it comes to statistical data about the size and reach of the Digital Media industry in Toronto, we’re sadly lacking. The economic profile of our Digital Media industry has been reduced to 2 small paragraphs and an even smaller table. To add insult to injury, the data presented is outdated. 5 years outdated, as a matter of fact.

I alluded to this problem in a previous post when I asked how it’s possible that Toronto, home to one of the most technologically-savvy communities in Ontario, nay, Canada can be so far behind in knowing who we are? How is it that cities like Vancouver, Calgary, and Winnipeg are taking the initiative to understand their industry and we’re not?

Before I continue, I’d like to make it clear that I am not trying to marginalize the efforts of organizations like InteractiveOntario. Their work in understanding Ontario’s digital media industry is to be commended. However, there is a clear distinction to be made between Ontario and Toronto: each one relies on the other, but each one is independent and unique in it’s composition.

The Problem

As I see it, we are facing this knowledge deficit for a number of reasons:

1. There is no existing initiative within StatsCan to showcase the small digital media companies that fuel our economy. 2. Municipal government too slow/not willing/not staffed properly to do proper research.

3. Toronto Economic Development Office relies on municipal government to provide data from higher levels of government or consulting companies.

Ultimately, the problem is one of a top-down nature: There is no one government organization that has taken responsibility for ensuring that this data is kept up to date, creating a chain-reaction, trickle down effect, resulting in a poor understanding of our industry as a whole.

Why Do We Need This Data?

Here are a few of the reasons why this data is necessary:

1. We need to understand the size and scale of our industry, in order to understand the impact on our local economy. 2. We need to understand the health of our industry. Are jobs being created or lost, and how many? Are companies profitable or are they being shut down? 3. To convince parents and students alike that there is a vibrant industry out there with good jobs available for new graduates. 4. To provide US and international organizations with a reason to invest in Toronto, to establish local offices and further fuel our local economy by creating jobs. 5. It provides a basis to support and evolve existing government programs, and help create new programs dedicated to promoting innovation and growth within our industry.

6. Justifies the existence of organizations like the OMDC and Interactive Ontario, and initiatives like the Bell New Media Fund.

Without question, there are many reasons why this data is necessary, but these are some of the reasons that were presented in Saturday’s session.

So, what’s next?

I personally promised those in attendance at DigitalMediaCamp that something would happen out of Saturday’s conversation; this is me staying true to that promise.

If you have an interest in the future of our digital media industry, are employed in said industry in some capacity (production, management, etc), are interested in data and research, or have ideas on how to create partnerships and secure funding for such an initiative, you are invited to attend an open conversation on January 19th, 2010 at the Centre for Social Innovation. This session begins at 6:30pm with introductions and will then move on to answer the following question:

As digital media workers, who are we? How can we work together to learn more about our industry?

Bring your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions to the Centre for Social Innovation and help us begin the process of understanding who we are.

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