Inside Namir Anani’s award-winning approach to building a national innovation community

Ask Namir Anani, president and CEO of the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), how he’s made a difference over the past year and there’s no hesitation – he’s been rallying Canada’s technology community around the need for a national talent and digital strategy.

When Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains announced a new Global Skills Strategy in March to fast-track the immigration process for highly-skilled talent needed by Candian companies, that was just one of the successes ICTC had a hand in. Its Canadian Leadership Taskforce on Education & Skills formed in late 2016, composed of representatives of major technology brands, education leaders, and the deputy minister of Employment and Social Development Canada. It published a paper in September 2016 that drove home a clear message – the best efforts of the country’s educators weren’t going to fill the growing digital skills gap. A stronger focus on talented immigration was crucial.

“This one really highlighted what our community is looking for in terms of internationally educated professionals and how do we fast track this process?,” Anani says. “We were one part of this consultation that took place, and we were heard.”

Anani is careful to make clear the government consultation process was a wide one that included many other voices too. But ICTC’s contribution and his own part in organizing the community was recently recognized by another industry group, the Canadian Advanced Technology Association (CATA) with its Community Innovation Leadership Award.

ICTC President Namir Anani receives his Community Leadership award at the CATA Gala, May 17.

“ICTC has demonstrated research, talent programs, and policy leadership in support of Canadian innovation over its 25 year history,” said John Reid, CEO of CATA Alliance. “Leadership, in many respects is both a research area and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual to guide teams to support mission and vision.”

The task force on education and skills that Anani helped form is just one of three task forces created under ICTC last year. The others are on Industry Growth and on Diversity and Inclusion. Each one brings together both public and private sector executives that are focused on policy from a national standpoint.

Shifting the community to come to this point of collaboration started with organized conversations. ICTC partnered with Microsoft Canada on a series of consultations, surveys, and focus groups to understand the issues around the digital skills gap. It also considered examples from abroad on how to address that shortfall.

“A community bonds together with a strong dialogue and a healthy debate that fosters trust, and is looking for common ground as a community,” he says. “They’re looking to create a first-mover advantage. You don’t want to be a fast follower, you want to be ahead of the game in the technology industry.”

All of the award winners at the CATA: (Front-row left – right): Elizabeth Auceda, Manager Supplier Diversity, Sodexo; Sheryl Steinberg, Vice President, Communications, and member, Diversity & Inclusion task force (for the National Digital Talent Strategy), Klick Inc.; John Reid, President and CEO, CATAAlliance; Patrick Rutledge, Martello Technologies; Victoria Lennox, Co Founder & CEO,
Startup Canada.
(Back-row left – right): Namir Anani, President and CEO of the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC); Craig Lord, Reporter, Ottawa Business Journal; Sylvain Rollin, President and CEO, ERMS Corporation; Michel Paquet, CEO, Aetonix; Fawn Annan, President & CMO, IT World Canada; Dr. Cindy Gordon, Founder and CEO SalesChoice, Inc.; Lauren Hunter,
Head, IN-spire Innovation Hub, Natural Resources Canada; Valerie Thomas, Project Lead, IN-spire Innovation Hub, Natural Resources Canada; James Freeman, CTO and President, New Ventures.

Aside from just their knowledge and insights, there’s one key catalyst that brings these people together to collaborate, Anani continues.

“These people are passionate about Canada and Canada’s place in the world,” he says. “You have business needs being addressed, but there’s also the sense of how to advance that for the country and I think the combination of the two are the catalyst for the community bonding together.”

Founded in 1992, the ICTC was originally founded as the Software Human Resources Council, founded by a federal government program. It wasn’t until 2006 that it adopted its current name and broadened its mandate. Anani became the president and CEO in November 2011, replacing the retiring Paul Swinwood.

Previously, Anani served as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) director of policy development and research. His career has been defined by business transformation, capacity building, and building national strategic alliances.

Now six years into his mandate with ICTC and three national task forces put in place, Anani plans to continue working on addressing Canada’s digital skills shortage. Sitting on the taskforce for industry growth, he sees a focus on education as one way Canada can thrive.

“Computer science is very important and to emphasize that, we need to build it in as a part of the curriculum in schools,” he says. “B.C. is doing that, so it can be done elsewhere.”

More must also be done to include women in the digital economy and entice youth to engage with it early in life, Anani says. Look to see a report on best practices around these issues and more coming out from the ICTC task forces this year.

It’s just one more way he can make a difference.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Former editorial director of IT World Canada. Current research director at Info-Tech

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