Industry Minister Tony Clement said Canada is in the middle of the pack in adopting a digital economy plan.

Industry Minister Tony Clement wants to hear from anyone who has something to say about Canada's digital economy.

Clement launched on Monday a nationwide consultation that will include public sessions at various locations across the country, as well as online, interactive consultations.

"All Canadians have a role to play in shaping Canada's digital future," he told the audience at the Canada 3.0 Digital Forum in Stratford, Ont.  "It's crucial everyone become engaged."

Stressing the importance of digital technology for research and business, Clement said Canada is in the middle of the pack in terms of the speed at which it is adopting a digital economy.

"That's not good enough," he said.

The minister said that while government has a role to play in terms of setting policy, innovations will ultimately come from the private sector.

Consultations are expected to wrap up July 9, after which Ottawa will take up to 18 months to devise a strategy.

Digital urban-rural divide a problem: study

Clement's announcement followed his unveiling Sunday of plans to expand broadband internet access to several rural and remote locations across the country.

The $76.7-million program will deliver broadband internet access to 169,000 Canadian households in nine provinces and territories.

Most connections will go to rural British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. Ontario will receive just 566 connections compared to 81,733 in Quebec, even though their respective rates of internet connectivity are similar. 

The minister's office said the grants announced Sunday represent only half the funding, and it is in negotiations with Ontario ISPs and expects those numbers to go up.

Meanwhile, a Statistics Canada study of internet use released on Monday shows the digital divide between urban and rural populations is a persistent problem.

In communities with a population of 10,000 or more, 83 per cent of residents used the internet in 2009, compared to 73 per cent in communities with fewer people, according to the study.

"This 'digital divide,' that is, the gap in the rate of internet use on the basis of community size, has persisted since 2007, when the respective proportions were 76 per cent and 65 per cent," Statistics Canada said in a news release.