Digital technologies are a driver of economic growth modernizing all sectors of the economy, our cities and our governments. But without the appropriate investment in talent, infrastructure, access and governance, as well as a whole-of-community approach, Canada’s recent upsurge as a ‘Tech Powerhouse’ will decline.
Canada needs to ensure a highly efficient and enabled environment to attract businesses to locate and stay here. Canada can expect business development in technology to soar, if we can make the appropriate investments in a data driven digital economy. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Smart Cities and infrastructure, technology for health and 5G networks – as examples – all require investment but have the power to support the transformation of the Canadian economy.
The Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) is a national industry advocate for the Canadian Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector. Our view is that Canada’s government and laws should promote and enable leadership in development and use of advanced technology. We want to ensure the establishment of efficient and cost-effective measures that protect privacy and instill confidence in the digital economy.
ITAC’s advocacy efforts bring key issues and perspectives of the ICT sector to federal, provincial and municipal decision makers. We work closely with senior government leaders and departments to advance key issues and ensure all levels of government adopt policies that support innovation and fuel the growth of Canada’s technology industry. Through ITAC membership, companies can be directly engaged in helping shape the foundational policies that impact the ICT business environment in Canada, ranging from tax rates and R&D support programs, cyber security policies, international trade regulations, smart city strategies, and education and diversity initiatives that ensure a steady supply of ICT talent. Equally important, ITAC works closely with industry leaders to make sure the government transforms, modernizes and digitizes government operations.
Improving the talent pool, skills and diversity of the ICT sector is vital to Canada’s success – now and in the long-term. We know that the ICT sector is already running at full employment and the number of unfilled jobs will continue to grow. Fears of future “shortages” in the ICT labour market miss the mark however. This isn’t about scarcity, it’s about growth, innovation and competition. Canada needs to take advantage of the opportunity to expand the ICT capabilities of its workforce – in all sectors – to build a thriving, equitable economy in the 21st Century.
People with the right ICT skills – combined with expertise in business, complementary technologies, innovation and leadership – create their own opportunities and are a magnet for international investment. That’s why ITAC’s Talent division focuses on inspiring today’s youth to pursue ICT related careers through programs like CareerMash, which educates students around the ways they can combine any of their passions with technology for a fulfilling career. ITAC also works with academic institutions, industry and sector associations to define a set of learning outcomes and competency standards required by industry, drawing heavily on relevant international standards for similar programs. Called the Business Technology Program (BTM), graduates are equipped with the right technical and business skills to lead and support the effective, competitive use of information technologies. Since its development in 2009, BTM has impacted thousands of graduates and is currently offered at 19 post-secondary institutions across Canada.
Maybe most importantly, we need to ensure there is greater diversity across and within the ICT sector. It’s not just about gender, race or ethnicity; Canada’s ICT sector must be inclusive of people with diverse perspectives as well. ITAC promotes a variety of initiatives to ensure women are more prominently represented in all dimensions of the ICT industry. Diversity is directly linked to enterprise success. Research has clearly shown that groups with greater diversity outperform homogeneous ones. As a champion of diversity, ITAC works with industry partners to spearhead initiatives that support “tech savvy and tech positive” learning and career choices for girls and women at strategic points within their development. This includes ITAC’s Talent programming, Women in Leadership initiatives, our Women on Boards Registry and Women Entrepreneurs as well.
But ITAC goes even further. Nothing defines Canada like our treasured healthcare system. It is a tremendous source of national pride. ITAC, through its Health division, works with healthcare stakeholders to improve the health of Canadians and the efficiency of the Canadian healthcare system through ICT. ITAC also acts as a collaborator between healthcare professionals, government representatives, researchers, and healthcare consumers, and acts as a conduit for those stake-holders to leverage our members’ ability to facilitate the Canadian healthcare system as a “model of excellence” for healthcare systems around the world.
What else? Cyber security is critical component to our nations’ work to protecting our economy. Cyber attacks have already had a measurable adverse impact on Canada, totaling billions of dollars. Despite low uptake in cyber security adoption among Canadian SMEs, Canada has a robust cyber security industry with expertise in emerging areas like quantum cryptography and artificial intelligence that form the basis of next generation technologies. Canada remains well positioned to address cyber threats. Existing policies, programs and investments provide evidence that the Government of Canada and most provincial governments recognize these opportunities – and ITAC is continuing to bring senior government and industry leaders together to address these issues.
To ensure we bring cohesion and scale to Canada’s digital economy, ITAC will continue to bring Canada’s government and the ICT industry together. It’s about growth, innovation and competitive advantage – and ultimately, future-proofing the country for changing technology needs. Encouraging all sectors to make investments in ICTs will enable Canada to more effectively compete in the global digital market and ensuring that we have flexible regulatory frameworks that can respond to new innovations will also spur the growth of our most creative SMEs.
As a prominent advocate for the expansion of Canada’s innovative capacity, ITAC will continue to encourage technology adoption to capitalize on productivity and performance opportunities across all sectors. More than 36,000 Canadian ICT firms create and supply goods and services that contribute to a more productive, competitive, and innovative society.