Google’s Canadian head says that Canadian businesses are falling behind in their use of technology, but is it really as bad as all that?
Sam Sebastian, managing director of Google Canada, made the accusation at a Vancouver Board of Trade talk on June 2, calling Canadian businesses “bad slow” when it comes to adopting digital technology.
Only half of Canada’s SMBs have a web site, he said, while fewer than one in three used cloud computing.
“Does not compute. I don’t get that,” he said, adding that we have to fix it.
Statistics seem to bear out these claims. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index ranks Canada 15th out of 144 countries.
Productivity is relatively low in Canada, according to the Conference Board of Canada, which sees close links between productivity and technology adoption.
Canada – which is largely made up of small businesses – innovates poorly. The Conference Board of Canada ranks Canada 13th out of 16 countries in terms of innovation. The country earned a D grade for ICT investment, which is a specific criteria on the report, ranking 8th out of 15 countries.
Kwan Song, partner in knowledge-based industries at Ernst & Young, said that technology drives business decisions. He argued that firms who don’t adopt are at a significant disadvantage.
“At the end of the day, making critical business decisions is what every company, whether large or small, in any industry, strives to do on a daily basis,” he said.
“Timely information is absolutely critical when making those key business decisions,” he continued. “For companies that are not open to embracing technology, achieving this objective will be a challenge and they will consistently come second to those companies that are open to adopting not just new technology, but new ideas.”
In a recent report on the subject, Deloitte suggested that few companies were completely ready for the kinds of disruption that technology can cause. The company divides readiness for disruption into four key areas: awareness, organizational culture, organizational agility, and effective resources. Only 13% of companies were prepared across all these areas, with most struggling to prepare themselves for change.
What can be done to alter things?
John Reid, president and CEO of Canadian high tech industry association CATAAlliance, sees three ways in which Canada can accelerate more technology adoption. He suggests a series of leadership interviews which would help to spread awareness about the benefits of technology.
Secondly, developing community-based pilot projects would help to share best practices across all sectors of the economy, he explained.
The final step would involve promoting public policies to boost digital technology adoption. To this end, in February CATAAlliance asked the Ontario government to establish a digital transformation funding stream. This would not only fund tech businesses, but would also focus on commercialising technologies and getting them adopted in the market.
Ultimately, though, the onus lies not on government to persuade business users to understand technology, but on those businesspeople to develop a level of foresight and awareness when it comes to tech. Spotting areas in which technology can positively affect the bottom line is a skill like any other. With so many businesses struggling simply to acquire customers and grow, it takes a conscious effort to devote some time to technology strategy.