In 1915, the Canadian government maintained a system of public-private collaboration on critical transportation infrastructure. Railroads in Canada were constructed by private corporations and some lines were funded by the government. Canada had four large express companies operating at the time, which were created under the Acts of the Dominion Government that collaborated with railway companies to deliver services.
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The Marine Department and Department of Naval Service supervised any shipping and transportation conducted by water, strictly regulated by the Canada Shipping Act. The federal government was responsible for managing and maintaining transportation networks such as railways and canals with physical and social infrastructure that was required. That included providing services such as policing, safety, and guidance. Foreign companies operated on the Canadian transportation network but were carefully regulated by the law (Canadian Census and Statistics Office, 1916).
Transportation is the backbone of nation-building as it provides a method to deliver any resource from one point to another with speed and efficiency. As transportation networks develop, an agglomeration effect occurs as a clustered market activity allows for industries to form. Concentrated industrial activity drives demand for mass transit, which helps to reduce the cost of travel due to economies of scale. In turn, this leads to the rapid development that drives interaction and innovation.
In the process of national development, “transportation enables economic activity and innovation… by connecting individuals and firms with opportunities and expertise” (PPSC Task Force, 2014, p.8). A structured transportation network in Canada was critical due to vast distances and its massive engagement in global trade. At the early stages of railway construction, there was evidence of poor planning and the lack of quality control conducted by private investors.
Therefore, the Canadian government sought to amalgamate the whole network into a unified organization that was competently managed and maintained. Despite accumulating large debts as part of the merger, it allowed to expand national borders and establish reliable transportation services for all citizens (“Transportation,” n.d.).
In 1915, telecommunications in Canada were controlled primarily by the government. Postal services were entirely provided by The Post Office Department using a variety of transportation networks to deliver services. The Dominion Government ran the Canadian Telegraph Systems in collaboration with a variety of chartered companies. Many major railway companies such as the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. owned thousands of miles of telegraph lines.
Several government departments such as Public Works, Department of Railways and Canals, and Department of Naval Service managed telegraph or telephone lines based on type and location (Canadian Census and Statistics Office, 1916). Despite, the early success of private ownership of telephone companies in Canada, the Dominion government chose to acquire ownership of the service in the early 1900s rather than maintaining regulatory control.
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This led to the development of telephone service as a natural monopoly (“Telecommunications,” n.d.). The purposeful decision by the Canadian government to practically eliminate competition during the era of rapid telecommunication expansion was based on the popular interest that required strict legislative control over pricing and interconnectivity amongst provinces. This led to the creation of standardized rates and reduced discrimination for non-lucrative areas which allowed for the widespread adoption of the technology and management of unfair practices.
Roles of Technology and Communication
The adoption of innovative technology in the process of nation-building is based on its practical usefulness and relative advantage to existing norms. The telegraph improved on the system of mail delivery while the railroad became a reliable method of transportation. It was compatible with Canada’s social values at the time which focused on rapid innovation and industrialization. The systems were transparent and efficient in function which led to their rapid implementation. Based on early experiences and examining the rapid adoption of the railway and telegraph in the United States, the concepts of trialability and observability were fulfilled by these technologies, leading to social acceptance and significant investment into their adoption in Canada (Quan-Haase, 2015).
Communication infrastructure, both historical and modern, plays a critical role in nation-building and development. At the core, communication allows us to modernize a country and formulate a range of solutions. It helps to form a dialogue between diverse sectors of society, allowing for the exchange of information and ideas that contribute to national identity. Communication technology aids in uniting multiple perspectives under a common vision for the achievement of development objectives (Lozare, 2015). Infrastructure is used to deliver material and abstract resources to areas of a country based on needs and value.
The Internet serves as the technological innovation of the modern era. It is the universal tool of communication, allowing for the rapid and borderless exchange of knowledge and ideas. It has grown exponentially from innovators to the late majority in a matter of two decades which suggests its universal adaptability as a technology. In theory, the Internet is supposed to be a self-governing entity that inspires globalization. Its abstract nature is meant to liberate it from regulation.
However, the reality of the technological concept followed similar patterns that innovative technologies such as the telegraph or the railway did when adopted on a mass scale. As a tool of communication and information, it required the organization to become usable. Similarly, government entities step in to manage this process of organization and establish regulatory control. Despite the non-physical nature of the Internet, governments can maintain control through its influence over persons and firms supporting the existence of the technology and infrastructure that serves as the access gateway.
Government coercion is inevitable in the realities of human civilization and the structure of national borders (Goldsmith & Wu, 2006). It becomes a paradoxical concept since government intervention was necessary for the Internet’s mass adoption and regulation of lawfulness but at the same time, it severely limits its foundational tenets of freedom and expression.
Canadian Census and Statistics Office. (1916). The Canada year book 1915. Ottawa, Ontario.
Goldsmith, J. L., & Wu, T. (2006). Who controls the Internet?: Illusions of a borderless world. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Lozare, B. (2015). Beyond information-sharing: The key roles of communication in national development. Web.
PPSC Task Force. (2014). Transportation and the economy. Web.
Quan-Haase, A. (2015). Technology & Society (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Telecommunications. (n.d.). Web.
Transportation. (n.d.). Web.