Flipping through the channels earlier this week I stumbled across an old episode of Venture, CBC’s business program. The episode focused on the competition amongst Canadian provinces for a piece of the video game making market, and featured the Island’s own John Eden, Technology PEI’s “Account Executive New Business Investment” in a cameo role trying to drum up video gaming business for PEI.
Apparently the province has decided to focus on the video game market; at least that’s what it says in this Atlantic Business Magazine article:
“A couple of years ago, we identified video game development as an opportunity to grow a cluster in our IT sector” says John Eden, account executive with TechPEI a Crown corporation established to advance the growth and development of Prince Edward Island’s technology sector. “We looked at what was hot, and decided game development was a way to provide new jobs for similar skills from the technology sector.”
Like the Marshall Medias, the ISPs (Cycor et al), the call centres, and the Atlantic Technology Centre, this effort seems pre-destined to be another crazy grab for business that’s not going to come. Or if it does come it won’t be sustainable nor organic and will simply pack up and leave when the money runs out.
Contrast this insanity with a post today on Island expat Amber MacArthur’s blog:
The Island’s capital city (POP approx. 30K), has come a long way. Now there are no signs of party lines, but there are signs everywhere for open WiFi… everywhere… and I mean everywhere. I’m spending my days working at the high-tech community centre (Queen Street Commons), wandering a block to Timothy’s for more surfing/coffee, stopping by Baba’s Lounge for tea (and more WiFi), and yesterday we shot commandN at ITAP (the Island’s technology centre).
They even have an Apple reseller in town, The Little Mac Shop. There are web designers, bloggers, and tech enthusiasts working and headhailing (AKA brainstorming) on new and exciting projects all over this town. It is so nice to be part of such a tight community. I never want to leave…
None of what Amber mentions has anything to do with the approach the province takes to the “IT industry” (save the technology centre, which was useful mostly for its comfortable chairs).
The real engines of the Island’s IT economy aren’t the simulacrums that the technocrats try to conjure up with
bribes incentives, they are the Perry Williams and the Dave Moses and the Peter Richards and the Derek Martins and the silveroranges and the Cynthia Dunsfords and the Kevin O’Briens and the Rob Patersons and the many, many others building small-scale, sustainable, nimble, loosely-coupled businesses. Businesses that don’t have big capital needs. Businesses so small that you might not even notice they exist. Businesses that don’t make good photo opportunities or news releases but that will be here for years after the hepped up droids enticed to move here from Toronto have gone back home.
Let’s just stop allowing our money to be used to fund desperate boneheaded tech megaprojects and focus instead on the elegance of the IT industry we already have. Let’s stop trying to go head-to-head with Toronto and Montreal in the incentives game and realize we have something that they can never duplicate: a quality of life, an interconnectedness, and a strong tradition of nomadic freelancers running a networked economy (read farmers, fishers, builders, weavers).
Let’s stop “growing clusters” and rebuild our approach to managing our IT economy around Amber’s words: “It is so nice to be part of such a tight community. I never want to leave…”