There’s a new leader at the helm of Ottawa-based Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC). Industry veteran, Karna Gupta, takes over as president and CEO from predecessor Bernard Courtois who recently retired. In an interview with ComputerWorld Canada, Gupta shares the direction he’ll be taking ITAC, and addresses the issues of Canada’s IT skills gap and the need to promote IT careers to females. 

ComputerWorld Canada: As you assume the helm at ITAC, what are your plans for the organization?

Karna Gupta: ITAC has been around for a good 60 years and as such they have done a lot of credible work in this area. My initial role is to take stock of what’s going on, continue the work in the policy domain, which is the primary focus of ITAC for most of our constituents and members. But, also to look at other areas in terms of technology, what we could do, adoption of technology both in private and public sector, showcasing Canadian technology globally.

CWC: There is ongoing discussion about an IT skills gap in Canada. What do you think must happen to help boost productivity and foster innovation in the Canadian market?

KG: Several things. A lot of things in the policy domain, a lot of things in the educational area. We need to have a good entrepreneurship program in universities, which brings in the private sector as the partner in the process. If you look at what has happened at Cambridge University, they have created a very good ecosystem for entrepreneurship. It’s promoted for new technology. So, Canada needs to adopt a lot of these things that have been tried in other countries. Also, look at immigration as a major issue. Then, you have the training programs that are available that need to also be beefed up and more robust.

CWC: On the issue of female professionals in IT, where to you see is the root of the problem and what can ITAC do to change that?

KG: Even before I joined ITAC, several of the major constituents in the Canadian corporations, some of the big players, have gone out and said diversity in the workforce is a major priority for them. We’ll continue to work with them in terms of how do we improve that. We have a diversity program within ITAC to bring in more female participation. At the end of day, it all comes down to training and promoting to that gender group that this is a profession that is to be looked at positively, it is a good career for both sexes. I think as you look at the younger age, that change is slowly shifting. You have to give it time as it percolates through the management ranks. But, we have already started to see the changes at the early stage entry levels.

CWC: Overall, what do you envision is the role of ITAC in the Canadian IT sector?

KG: ITAC is the pre-eminent voice of the Canadian technology sector. We’ll continue to play that role. We have a very large constituent base, companies that are very large, multi-national, local as well as mid-sector. So, we’ll play a major role in terms of promoting their causes in front of the government, and in technology adoption. So, the big role is promoting technology adoption both in public and private sector, showcasing Canadian technology not only locally but globally. And, we also need to create a forum where companies can exchange ideas, which is the whole notion of networking and integration between companies.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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