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Digital Policy Salon: Unicorns and Narwhals

Welcome to the 20th issue of the Digital Policy Salon weekly briefing. This week has seen several im
Digital Policy Salon
Digital Policy Salon: Unicorns and Narwhals
By ICTC-CTIC • Issue #20 • View online
Welcome to the 20th issue of the Digital Policy Salon weekly briefing.
This week has seen several important events in the world of big tech, and we have one eye on investment and the other on regulation in this issue. From Silicon Valley unicorns to our very own “narwhals,” important conversations about acquisitions, anti-trust legislation, FDI, and the status of workers continue amid updates on vaccines and contact tracing.
Our perspective piece from the recent archives provides a timely overview of gig worker protections, now more important than ever as numbers of “flexible” contractors have proliferated during the pandemic. In addition, be sure to check out this week’s installment of ICTC’s tech and human rights series on the history of digital activism and social media-enabled human rights claims.
We’re excited to bring you our featured research, a new report on FDI in Canadian artificial intelligence, as well as timely policy updates and the most up-to-date tech news. Thank you, as always, for joining us for this week’s issue.
- Faun, Khiran, and Tyler

COVID-19 Policy Updates 🇨🇦
Ottawa signs procurement deal for potential COVID-19 vaccines
Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced yesterday that Canada has signed a deal with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna to procure millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine candidates in 2021. Once procured, vaccines will require Health Canada approval prior to rollout. Both Minister Anand and Dr. Theresa Tam emphasized the need for continued public health measures in addition to vaccine trials.
Canadian Government sets aside $3.3B for pandemic-related infrastructure projects
Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna announced yesterday a new COVID-19 “resilience” stream, a $3.3-billion fund for pandemic-related projects such as infrastructure upgrades for improved health and safety, as well as active transport infrastructure.
Tech companies see 25% drop in funding during pandemic
An analysis by the Narwhal Project found a 25% drop in funding for Canadian private-sector tech companies since the onset of COVID-19, compared to the same period last year.
Federal government-sponsored exposure notification app sees 1.1 million downloads in its first four days live
COVID Alert, the federal exposure notification app, was downloaded 1.1 million times in the four days following its Friday launch, according to the Canadian Digital Service, which developed the app.
Microsoft, US Government discuss American company’s purchase of TikTok
On Monday, US President Donald Trump set September 15 as the deadline for TikTok to find a U.S. buyer, failing which he said he would shut down the app in the U.S. Microsoft is currently pursuing acquisition of TikTok from ByteDance subject to a complete security review and ongoing conversations with the US government.
American Congress holds Anti-Trust Hearings for Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google
CEOs Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Tim Cook (Apple), and Sundar Pichai (Google) testified before the US congress last week on the relevance of antitrust legislation to big tech.
Our Perspective
Regulating Flexibility and Other 21st Century Problems
Interviews in the Field
#HumanRights: A Brief History of Digital Activism
Professor Ronald Niezen, Katharine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy in the Faculty of Law and in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University
Professor Ronald Niezen, Katharine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy in the Faculty of Law and in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University
What We're Reading
Bill English: Computer mouse co-creator dies at 91 - BBC News
The Big Tech Hearing
Research Visualized
As early as the 1990s, businesses began to search for new methods of driving economic output and driving down costs through digital technologies. Companies had always hired contractors or temporary workers to fill demand in peak business times or provide support based on seasonal need. Outsourcing and offshoring were the subsequent steps in this process. These practices frequently entail the need to substantially restructure internal business activities and even transfer staff from a home to host country.
Growth in digital technology and improved connectivity have allowed more businesses to outsource certain roles or projects to jurisdictions around the world.
The most common reason for outsourcing is usually to reduce operational costs (without sacrificing quality).
Source: Saigon Technology, 2020 (USD)
Source: Saigon Technology, 2020 (USD)
In 2019, India topped the list of global outsource locations for software development. With a strong supply of skilled tech talent, the average hourly rate for a software developer in India is about $15/hr, making it an attractive destination for outsourcing. Other competitors for digital gigs include Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, and China, all with hourly rates between $20–50. Beyond that, Eastern Europe—Ukraine, Romania, Poland, etc.—offer average hourly rates between $30–75. This compares with hourly wages for contract software developers in the US at $80–200, depending on experience.
Our Research
Betting on Red and White: International Investment in Canadian AI
Twitter Highlights
BLG
In our July issue of The Sensor, authors Tamara Tomomitsu & Sunny Kim summarize key takeaways from a connected and autonomous vehicles trends report jointly published by ICTC and CAVCOE.  
#Cybersecurity #BLGTheSensor #AV
https://t.co/AFJqZ0WKp6 https://t.co/PNnkFyoLiJ
Canadian Digital Service (CDS)
1.1 million downloads of COVID Alert exposure notification app! You never cease to amaze us, Canada!

Thanks to you, we’re closer to slowing the spread of #COVID19.

Download it today:

- Apple: https://t.co/2ZiVeo8psX

- Android: https://t.co/RgLKVGzoGP https://t.co/VbVEUopCv3
Talk to Us 💬
Send your comments, questions, and tech policy insights to:

Subscribe to ICTC’s flagship newsletter here.
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