The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) has put together a proposal for technology test beds in the public sector and calling out to governments at all levels to implement the plan.
The test beds would provide more flexibility for the ministries and individuals to experiment and innovate products and services, said John Reid, president of CATA.
The proposal is a win-win situation for the IT industry and public service, according to Reid, and would help public service attract top talent by providing a mandate and resources to experience and be innovative.
The plan would also help Canada rise its profile an innovator in the international community. “With all sectors looking into the future, there are new opportunity areas. But if you don’t provide vehicles for people to experiment, it won’t happen in Canada,” he said.
The end game, according to Reid, is accelerating enterprise creation in Canada. “It’s going to be the new products and the new services that help pave the way,” he said.
While the plan doesn’t intend to replace the traditional procurement process, it is a way to deal with a long-stranding refrain from Canadian CEOs, Reid noted. “More often than not, the first sale a company makes is outside of Canada,” he said.
“It’s just another vehicle where we would have an opportunity to work with Canadian technologies. That’s important to them because when they go offshore, they can say they have a test site or they have a reference account within their own government,” said Reid.
“Current rules wouldn’t allow Public Works to buy technologies as a trial without a full-blown procurement. Under the Canadian Technologies Office Test Bed the government would be an incubator, buying and trying new products and services,” states CATA.
Current government procurement process are biased towards safety, according to Howard Kiewe, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group Ltd. “Price is a concern, but the main bottom line outcome is you don’t want to end up with your name in the paper in a bad way, in a negative way because you’ve made a blunder in your selection,” he said.
Kiewe suggested a separate, lighter weight procurement process for new products might reduce the cost for companies and allow beurucrats to make decisions that are a “little riskier” and have a “bigger payoff.”
“It’s a controlled risk. You want to do it in a limited way until you are confident that it will work in a broader context,” he said.
CATA presented its Technology Test Bed concept to staff from the office of Public Works and Government Services Minister Christian Paradis on Tuesday and is “very pleased” with the reaction from PWGSC, according to Reid. “We really are getting very positive resonance on this idea,” he said.