By Bernard Courtois, Executive Counsel, BCE & Bell CanadaJust over three years ago, dot-com and telecom companies around the world were the darlings of investors, government and the media. Then the bubble started to burst and the story quickly changed, becoming one of debt restructuring, downsizing and enterprises going out of business. In the wake of the bust, some may question whether the boom was more hype than substance. But during the 1990s, something fundamental did change. Yes, there was tremendous excitement surrounding notions like having access to the largest libraries in the world via a PC, being in contact by phone with our homes or workplaces while out for a jog, being able to send and receive e-mails from a moving bus. And yet these very concepts are now today’s reality.  With other notable boom and bust cycles that accompanied revolutionary changes in technology – like the introduction of trains in the mid-19th century and the arrival of the automobile in the early 20th – the most remarkable developments occurred after a crash, not before. There is little reason to believe the revolution in telecom will be any different. Information and communications technologies (ICT) continue their rapid advance. Processing power continues to double every 18 months and storage capacity is increasing at a faster pace, giving rise to new and relatively inexpensive applications. Today you can speak with a traveling family member halfway around the world using a web cam, and at a fraction of what a traditional voice call would have cost not so long ago.  From an economic perspective, ICT developments in the late 90s provided huge boosts to productivity. And while we are currently experiencing a pause in spending on ICT by Canadian enterprises – due, at least in part, to 9/11 and subsequent conflicts, as well as events like a slowing economy and the SARS crisis – there can be little doubt that spending will pick up.  ICT remains an essential economic enabler. As the Association of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters reported earlier this year, "Unless investment in productive capital – and especially new information and advanced manufacturing technologies – increases significantly across Canadian industry, the differences in productivity, economic and income growth in Canada and the United States will continue to widen." From a societal point of view, ICT also plays a critical role in helping tackle major challenges. Today, Canadians and various levels of government are compelled to choose among health care priorities, balancing what we want and need against what we can afford. The ICT sector, including telecom, represents our greatest hope to bridge this gap. And what about government? We have barely scratched the surface on the improved accessibility, convenience and efficiency that ICT can bring to how governments serve their citizens.As in the past, Canada is now as well positioned as any country to achieve the benefits ICT has to offer, with access to high-quality, advanced telecom services at prices that are among the lowest in the world.  The ICT sector is key to progress in terms of our prosperity and quality of life. Many of the advances made during the recent boom and bust cycle represent a start, not an end. And as is the case with any revolution, things move quickly and standing still means falling behind. Government and industry should not forget this as they go about assessing their priorities.