New ITAC chief focused on closing productivity gap with the U.S.

While officially appointing its new president and CEO, the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), also provided an overview of IT’s position in the Canadian economy.

ITAC is an umbrella organization made up of 1,300 IT companies that lobbies for common industry interests, including issues around skills and employment.

Bill Bergen – a former president of Oracle Corp. Canada Inc. – recently took over the responsibilities from acting ITAC president Adam Chowaniec, chairperson of Tundra Semiconductor Corp.

Bergen expressed his support for the changes that ITAC has been going through in recent years, with a stronger emphasis on “made in Canada.” He added that with this country’s size and “swiftness of foot,” Canada should be able to exceed the performance of the U.S. IT industry, in both the public and private sectors.

The goal of ITAC is to expand and develop the IT marketplace and improve productivity in Canada and to “put Canada on the road map as a role model to the rest of the world, particularly the G-8,” Bergen added

President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Canada Ltd. and current ITAC chairperson Paul Tsaparis noted that although “growth isn’t a word people are used to hearing in regards to the IT sector,” Canada is closing in on the peak levels that the IT industry achieved in the year 2000.

“We saw 0.5 per cent output growth in the third quarter of 2002 and 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter. This, of course, is nothing like the hockey stick-style growth we saw in the period from 1997 to 2001 but it’s treading in the right direction,” Tsaparis said.

He added that the young industry of IT is not in decline and cited experience, not optimism, as the factor behind ITAC’s positive thinking of the IT sector.

“Quite frankly there isn’t a lot being reported about growth in (the IT) sector, however modest it may be. And, in that vacuum, the perception has taken root that we’re in decline. I may not be an economist, but I know you can’t decline and grow at the same time,” Tsaparis said.

Tsaparis cited PeopleSoft Inc.’s recent acquisition of J.D. Edwards & Co. as an example of vibrancy in the IT industry.

Vito Mabrucco, group vice-president of IDC Canada Ltd., was on hand at the conference to discuss a report – entitled The Future of the Canadian IT and Communications Market Forecasts 2003-07 – which IDC released last month.

He cited the 10 to 20 per cent productivity gap between Canada and the U.S.- the U.S. IT industry spends one full percentage point more than the Canadian industry on research and development – as an issue that needs to be addressed.

Canadians must change the way they think about IT if the industry is going to improve, Mabrucco added.

“It is time to look at IT as an investment, (an) enabler, a way to look at competitive advantage,” Mabrucco said. “We should look at IT as a business solution, we shouldn’t just do IT for IT’s sake.”