May will be a busy month. We celebrate Mother’s Day, Victoria Day, National Barbecue month, National Peace of Mind month, Pen-Friends week and now add one more – Canada’s Information Technology Week.
According to Linda Oliver, executive director of government relations and the IT Week coordinator, this event is much more than another excuse to host pancake breakfasts and print colourful brochures.
“IT Week is a grassroots event. This is the first year of what will become an annual celebration designed to highlight and celebrate achievements made in Canada’s IT industry,” Oliver said.
“Canadians have a lot to celebrate in the areas of development, innovation, business achievements and software. This is our chance to brag a little.”
A joint initiative by Industry Canada and the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), IT Week is officially slated for May 4 to 13.
Though the event will be kicked off by an ITAC-sponsored conference in Toronto in late April, celebrating the first 50 years of modern computing, the focus of the initiative will be at the local level. Events across Canada will include seminars on the basics of e-mail to how to protect your child on the Internet to keynote speeches by industry leaders and high-level round table sessions with provincial premiers. All of the events are geared towards contributing to the Government of Canada’s Connecting Canadians initiative, an effort to make Canada the world’s most connected nation.
Ian Blanchard, past chairman of Information Technology Industry Alliance of Nova Scotia (ITANS) and organizer of Nova Scotia’s events for IT week, sees the event as an opportunity for Nova Scotians to realize how technology drives its traditionally resource-based economy.
“There’s a lot of great stuff going on in IT in Nova Scotia, and to be honest it’s a fairly well-kept secret in many areas,” Blanchard said. “Nobody really knows about it.”
Blanchard and coordinators of other IT Week celebrations throughout Canada hope to expose this secret by presenting awards to local people who have made contributions to the IT world on a local level and generally raising the level of understanding of technology within the community.
“The IT Heroes Awards will go to people in communities who have gone beyond the limit to get connected,” Oliver explained. “These are the people who take the next step forward in IT, and who use the technology as a real tool to increase personal and business productivity.”
New Brunswick’s IT Week volunteer chairman, Jeff McGuigan, agrees that it’s time that people in his province heighten their awareness about IT.
“We want people to have a better understanding of what it is that we [as technology professionals] do,” McGuigan explained. “IT is more than just a techie sitting behind a computer cutting code for a business application. Technology is in your toaster, your television, your vehicle. It is bigger than what people currently see it as, and it’s our goal to begin that education.
“We also want our children to recognize the career opportunities in IT and we want a broader audience to understand New Brunswick’s world class IT industry. It’s time to blow our own horn.”
Aside from all of this horn blowing, IT Week may have as much to do with keeping IT professionals in Canada as with celebrating their accomplishments.
“I think that we need to make a real effort to keep the future leaders that are in our classrooms and in our universities in Canada,” Oliver said. “There is a perception that professionals can’t participate in IT at the same level in Canada as they could elsewhere and we want to change that perception. Maybe IT week will help in making that change.”
While there may be a pancake breakfast or two to attend during the week and colourful brochures to read, Canada’s IT Week has loftier intentions. Does it matter to Canadians? Ian Blanchard summed it up: “It’s as important as we choose to make it.”
For more information on Canada’s IT Week and what might be happening in your community, visit http://itweek.gc.ca.