12/14/2017 04:02 EST | Updated 12/17/2017 03:23 EST

Quebec to spend heavily to boost digital services throughout the province

QUEBEC — The Quebec government launched the province's first digital strategy Wednesday, announcing $1.5 billion over five years to boost the level of internet-based services throughout the province and to help make Quebecers more computer literate.

Quebec's plan includes giving every citizen access to high-speed internet, regardless of where they live, and fully digitalizing all patient health records and have them available online.

Premier Philippe Couillard told reporters after his announcement that from now on, Quebec needs to "think, act and interact" differently.

Economy Minister Dominique Anglade was present during the announcement and said an additional goal of the strategy is to make Quebec a world leader with regard to information technology training.

"At a very high level, the message is we want to make sure Quebec is a leader in terms of digital strategy and digital transformation," she said.

Couillard said his government's initiative will be positive for all Quebecers, whether they are regular citizens, bureaucrats in government or entrepreneurs.

"It is not a luxury, it is not an option, it's a necessity to elevate Quebec to the same level as other industrialized societies with regards to the adoption of digital technologies," he said.

"It is really the sign of the new world, of a new society that is emerging around us."

Part of the strategy calls on schools and municipalities to increase their digital presence.

"It is no longer science fiction to think our children will be trained on how to code," Couillard said. "Students will take part in activities involving robotics from the time they are very young."

The plan also offers measures to help entrepreneurs with information technologies.

About 1,700 small- and medium-size businesses will have access to subsidies for digital projects.

The strategy follows widespread public consultation and its implementation will be overseen by a new digital council.

One-third of the $1.5 billion outlined had already been announced.

Couillard also discussed his plan to give Quebecers access to their medical records online.

He played down suggestions the focus on the digital world is a security risk to patient confidentiality.

Couillard said having the proper technology is more secure than a paper-driven health system.

"There is an illusion that the current way of things is better in terms of security,"he said. "It is not. Having a pile of paper on a desk that can be picked up by anyone is hardly something that is secure.

"So with the proper technology and the proper way of doing things, we can reach a much higher level of security than is present today."

Many details of the government's digital initiatives still need to be released.