March 8, 2013
By Karna Gupta, President and CEO, ITAC
I just recently got back from a trip to India where I had the honour of being part of the Canada-India ICT Work Group that was led by Industry Canada. The group was comprised of representatives from the following:
The group had meetings with officials of several Ministries and several private sector companies including a venture funded incubator in India. The goal of these meetings were to advance a deeper understanding of the capabilities of the ICT sectors in India and Canada and seek areas for cooperation, collaboration, and activities that bring mutual benefit. Overall the meetings were excellent and clearly demonstrated that there is a genuine interest on the part of both the public and private sector in Canada and India to create deeper engagement and business relationships.
This trip once again confirmed for me that the Indian economy continues to be vibrant and intense – with excellent market opportunities for Canadian companies of all sizes. According to a recent survey of 745 firms with significant foreign shareholders by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the overall return on equity was 13% in the year to March 2011 and technology companies, carmakers and chemical-makers did well in India. Unlike foreign direct investment in China, which has been directed at building factories for export, investment into India has been aimed at the domestic market—only 12% of the firms’ sales were foreign. This is not to say that it’s easy to do business in India… but it is quite possible. The size of the opportunity in India, which has a population of over 1.2 billion, is significant. Its economy, which had been growing around 8-9 per cent before the global financial meltdown of 2008, is, according to Goldman Sachs, likely to grow by 6.5 per cent in 2013 driven by favourable external demand outlook and domestic structural reforms push. Given this, doing business in India has the potential to be very lucrative.
Industry Canada will issue the initial report on the actions and next steps as an output from the recent trip. It is all being framed under the announcement made by the Prime Ministers of India and Canada to boost the annual trade from $5B to $15B by 2015. This is an ambitious target but doable. Rest assured that ITAC will take on the challenge of connecting and facilitating ICT sector trade in a way that is mutually beneficial. We are encouraged that the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) has agreed in principle to work with us to address the facilitation of SME’s in both countries to access each other’s markets. NASSCOM is the premier organisation that represents and sets the tone for public policy for the Indian software industry so this could be the beginning of an important partnership. We are further encouraged that some of India’s large private sector companies are looking at how they can best connect with the Canadian innovation eco-system.
Personally, I have done a lot of business in India in the past with companies like Bharti - Airtel, Reliance, Aircel, and Hutch (now Vodafone). The three important lessons that I learnt over time are:
These lessons still hold true today. So if you are considering accessing the Indian market, your need to have a strategy that is well thought through, agile and detailed. A good strategy would be to seek access to the huge local Indian market and benefit from a cost model which is competitive globally rather than just look for outsourcing opportunities. You will need to have strong leadership in the local market as you need feet on the ground rather than a flying squad from another country and culture. Lastly, if you are considering this step ITAC would love to hear from you.
August 31, 2011
By Karna Gupta, President and CEO, ITAC
It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I address you as President and CEO of ITAC, via this month's newsletter.
Over the last six decades, ITAC has been providing excellent policy and advocacy work. I look forward to building upon this legacy and making our position in the industry even more compelling. It is a privilege to have been given a platform from which I can showcase our Canadian ICT talent and to have the opportunity to make Canada a local and global technological powerhouse.
ITAC represents an extremely diverse ICT community – spanning telecommunications and internet services, ICT consulting services, health, microelectronics, hardware, software, electronic content, and more. In my day-to-day work, I look forward to drawing on my many years of private-sector experience in a number of these areas; and I am equally impassioned by the idea of learning about other technology sectors and how they contribute to a vibrant ICT sector and the economy as a whole.
I feel very fortunate to be joining ITAC at a time when technology is truly being seen as an answer to a variety of fiscal and social challenges being faced by our country. The launch of Canada’s Digital Economy Strategy, for instance, will affirm a number of the policy proposals ITAC has been pushing forward over the past several years. The Treasury Board's current Strategic Review of operations and government spending will also highlight ways in which technology can make our country more efficient, productive and, as a result, more competitive and prosperous.
With this in mind, it seems fitting that this month's issue of ITAC Online is focused on Cloud Computing as a technological tool that can contribute to a very broad and profound transformation of government operations. In the pages below, you will read about three of the many ITAC members who are doing industry-leading work in this area.
Reading about these companies made me ponder on how they fit into the grander tech eco-system in Canada; and how, when our community works together toward a common goal, there is nothing beyond our reach. Together, we have the potential to turn Canada into an unrivalled country where new, innovative companies can flourish.
What needs to happen first, however, is the creation of an adoption model for innovative technology solutions – one that will allow both private and public sector organizations in Canada to easily and naturally adopt innovative technologies as quickly as our ICT community can create them. Taking Cloud Computing as an example, we must look to the Canadian government to be a model adopter and long-term user. This will lead to the incubation and commercialization of more Canadian technology companies. Every time a truly great company is born, it creates an equally great spill-over effect resulting in specific centres of technological excellence. This is what our country needs; and thus the creation of such an adoption model will stand as my top priority as President and CEO of ITAC. It is undoubtedly a mammoth undertaking, but considering the potential within our member community, it lies within our reach.
May 9, 2011
This is the second in a series of blog updates on the Digital Economy Strategy that ITAC will be posting until the DES’s release, which is slated for later this spring.
In our first DES update (http://itac.ca/weblog/entry/itac_update_on_digital_economy_strategy), we gave an overview of our DES submission last summer, and then delved into some of the key issues surrounding broadband technologies and infrastructure. In this update, we focus on another pillar in the DES consultation paper and ITAC’s subsequent response: digital skills.
The final chapter of Industry Canada’s DES consultation paper is titled “Building Digital Skills for Tomorrow.” It acknowledges the necessity for digital skills among all Canadians across all economic sectors, and also addresses some of the challenges we will encounter in pursuing this goal (http://de-en.gc.ca/consultation-paper/consultation-paper-10/). In our response to this chapter, we made the following recommendations to the Government of Canada:
1- Develop a national digital skills strategy for Canada.
2- Improve our performance in the collection of timely and useful data about all aspects of the digital labour market including post-secondary enrollment data and data about the evolution of our progress toward the creation of a workforce that reflects a strong infusion of digital skills with all other specialties.
3- Coalesce the efforts of the private, public and NGO sectors to promote STEM literacy through a national campaign. Aim to improve Canada’s performance in producing science and engineering graduates moving from our current OECD to the top 5 by 2016.
4- Double female enrolments in high value programs by 2017.
5- Create a skills marketplace to drive labour market agility and innovation.
6- Increase digital economy college and university seats by 20 percent by 2017.
7- Make the full range of digital literacy skills a priority in primary, secondary, post-secondary, mid-career and lifelong learning education.
8- Aggressively build awareness, supports, incentives and partnerships to drive change.
While these recommendations are vast and comprehensive, they all fall under the umbrella of the first: develop a national digital skills strategy for Canada. Such a strategy is absolutely fundamental to an industry in which people are the most important resource. And as digital technologies and services further transform our society and economy, such a strategy is only becoming increasingly crucial to all sections of Canada’s economy.
Canada has a healthy base upon which to develop this strategy. We have very good educational systems and institutions, and Canadian technology developers are among the most innovative in the world. But certain gaps exist, which need to be filled – gaps in enrolment in math and science related high school and university courses; gaps between the number of men versus women who currently occupy our nation’s ICT jobs; and of course, the gap of not having a Digital Skills Strategy currently in place.
In our work with digital technology communities across the country, and in our outreach to other industrial sectors, we sense a strong recognition in all areas of the need for this type of national strategy. And we are happy to report that since the closing of the DES public consultation, some significant work has already been done. For instance, the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills (an industry-led coalition of employers, universities and industry organizations – www.ccict.ca) has made considerable progress with a range of post-secondary institutions on developing programs that combine technology and business. CCICT is about to launch a program/website aimed at educating children, parents and teachers on the attractiveness of a career in ICT, and we are pleased that some of the funding for this program has come from the federal government, as well as a number of provincial governments.
Yet much remains to be done. Last month, ITAC and the Information and Communications Technology Council (www.ictc-ctic.ca) released our “Outlook for Human Resources in the ICT Labour Market, 2011-2016.” It showed that Canadian employers will want to hire an estimated 106,000 ICT workers over the next five years. You can access this full report here: http://www.ictc-ctic.ca/Outlook_2011/index_en.html.
The Canadian economy is continuing to evolve in such a way that the most significant growth, and therefore employment opportunities, exist in what we might now start to call the “innovative” fields – in other words, those areas where workers are focused on revolutionizing our healthcare system or changing the way our governments do business. And so much of these types of projects are accomplished through the adoption of technological solutions. This means that careers in digital technologies and services will be more attractive than ever.
Finally, ITAC was pleased to see a significant investment in digital skills in this year’s Federal Budget (namely, the $60 million that HRSDC will reallocate over the next three years to promote enrolment in key disciplines related to the Digital Economy, such as science, mathematics, engineering and technology). This is a positive starting point, and still, we look forward to seeing how it fits into a broader Digital Skills Strategy for Canada.
We welcome your comments on this DES update. If you have any thoughts you'd like share with ITAC, please contact Brendan Glauser at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.
April 8, 2011
Both the Conservative and Liberal Parties of Canada have devoted sections of their 2011 Election platforms to creating a Digital Economy Strategy for Canada.
The following is a compilation of the key points within each of these parties’ comments on technology and innovation, and how it must contribute to our nation’s future.
Conservatives Update on Status of Digital Economy Strategy
In 2007 Stephen Harper’s Government announced the Science and Technology Strategy. Since then, this strategy has evolved into the Digital Economy Strategy for Canada, which is cited and explained in the Conservative Party’s 2011 Election platform.
"In 2010 we consulted experts and businesspeople on positioning Canada to seize the opportunities presented by new information and communications technologies. Our purpose is to build on our actions our plan to extend broadband coverage to 200,000 additional households in rural and remote regions; and our successful efforts to increase competition and choice and to lower costs for wireless consumers."
The Conservative Party proceeds to promise Canadians that if re-elected, a Stephen Harper Government will announce and begin implementing a Digital Economy Strategy, focused on the following five key areas:
- Building world-class digital infrastructure;
- Encouraging businesses to adopt digital technologies;
- Supporting digital skills development;
- Fostering the growth of Canadian companies supplying digital technologies to global markets; and
- Creating made-in-Canada content across all platforms.
To achieve these goals, the Conservative Party promises to: "support collaborative projects between colleges and small- and medium-sized businesses to accelerate the adoption of information and communications technologies; promote enrolment in post-secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs; and build Canada’s digital content through additional support for the Canada Media Fund.
Finally, the Conservatives promised to reintroduce and pass the Copyright Modernization Act, stating that it: "recognizes the practical priorities of teachers, students, artists, families, and technology companies, among others, while aligning Canada with international standards, […] respects both the rights of creators and the interests of consumers, [… and] will ensure that Canada’s copyright law will be responsive in a fast changing digital world, while protecting and creating jobs, promoting innovation, and attracting investment to Canada."
Liberals Release Platform Based on the "The Digital Canada of Tomorrow"
On April 4, the Liberal Party of Canada released a section of their platform based on a Digital Economy Strategy for Canada. Here are a few notable excerpts:
"With continuing, rapid leaps in computing capacity, data storage and wireless innovation, digital technology and the Internet have the potential to invigorate our democracy, our economy, and our culture, putting the full power of information and action into citizens’ hands.
"But in the last five years, Canada has fallen behind more ambitious competitors. The United Kingdom, France, Australia and the United States, for example, have developed far-reaching plans for the digital society of the future, and are introducing comprehensive policies and programs."
The platform focused on eight key objectives:
- Access to Broadband for All Canadians
- Closing the Digital Divide
- Fair balance Between Creators and Consumers
- Flourishing Canadian Content, Culture and Identity in Digital Media
- Competition in a Healthy Business Environment that Rewards Innovation
- An Open Internet
- Open Government
- Protection from Digital Threats
The platform also contains other specific incentives to aid in job creation:
"Our new Innovation and Productivity Tax Credit will create incentives to generate more start-up venture capital for entrepreneurs, which will drive the creation of high-quality jobs. It is estimated that from 2003 to 2007, companies backed by venture capital averaged annual employment growth of 17.1%. Our new Innovation Gateway will provide a sharper, simpler and more efficient emphasis on entrepreneurial, innovative companies in order to spur further job creation. We will ensure all Canadians have access to high-speed broadband internet within the first three years of our mandate in order to foster more economic growth."
It is also worth noting that if elected, the Liberal Party of Canada promises to bring corporate taxes back to 2010 levels.
Read more here: http://www.liberal.ca/platform/the-economy/innovation-jobs/
April 8, 2011
It's official: on May 2, Canada will head to the polls for a federal election.
To help you understand what is going to happen over the 36 day writ, ITAC will be sending regular updates on the election. We are particularly interested in the policy discussions that affect the issues we have been campaigning for within the Digital Economy Strategy. Our elevator pitch outlining the key things we want out of the DES is appended below. In the event you are asked what you would like to see from the next government, please feel free to draw upon these points or call on us if we can help get this message out.
Here are some links and other resources you might find interesting:
Currents standings in the House of Commons (there are 308 seats, so a party needs at least 155 seats to form a majority government):
Conservatives - 143
Liberals - 77
BLOQ - 47
NDP - 36
Independent - 2
Vacant - 3
Here is the link if you want on the provincial numbers: http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/process/house/partystandings/standings-E.htm
You can use this site to find your MP and riding - search by postal code, candidate’s name, address, etc.: http://www.elections.ca/scripts/pss/FindED.aspx?L=e
Finally, the following political party websites allow you to follow your favorites:
ITAC's Elevator pitch regarding a National Digital Economy Strategy for Canada
Digital tools and services have the power to help humanity solve previously unsolvable problems, build stronger and more equitable societies, vanquish disease and ignorance, and build more competitive economies and enterprises. Continued innovation in technology will increase productivity and prosperity. Canada has many natural advantages that situate it in a leadership position in key areas of digital performance. But to seize these advantages and solidify our leadership, Canada needs an effective, national Digital Economy Strategy.
Canada needs to increase its use of ICTs across the whole economy and throughout society in order to sustain our competitiveness and quality of life in the 21st century. It needs, for example, to close the gap between and Canada and the U.S. in terms of its investment in ICTs.
Broadband is a key enabler of digital strength. Canada needs to make next generation broadband available to all Canadians by 2017.
Canada needs a robust ICT sector to seize the advantages of the digital age. We need to set measurable targets for growth (such as 20 companies above $1 billion in revenue by 2017) and remove the barriers (such as unavailability of capital and business expertise) that impede our growth.
To achieve digital leadership, Canada needs a workforce richly equipped with digital skills. Canada should be a global leader for a recognizable excellent digital labour force. For example, it needs to increase digital economy college and university programs by 20% by 2017.
The Canadian government should lead the digital economy by the example of its own superlative use of digital tools and services in the delivery of government services and healthcare.
April 7, 2011
Almost a year has passed since Ministers Clement, Finley and Moore announced the release of the National Digital Economy Strategy (DES) Consultation Paper. The strategy was to be completed by the spring of 2011, but now with a possible federal election looming, it is unclear whether this deadline will be met. We note with interest that in its March 17 Budget, the Québec government has placed significant emphasis on a digital economy strategy and its implication for productivity and prosperity in Québec. Considering these circumstances, the time is right for an update from ITAC on the DES.
ITAC was pleased with the breadth of the federal government’s consultation paper, and we submitted a response that hit on the five key areas outlined in the consultation paper:
- Capacity to Innovate Using Digital Technologies,
- Building a World Class Infrastructure,
- Growing the Information and Communications Technology,
- Digital Media: Creating Canada’s Digital Content Advantage, and
- Building Digital Skills for tomorrow.
You can read our response here: http://itac.ca/media_details/1652.
The last official update on the strategy took place in November, when Minister Clement spoke at the annual IIC conference in Ottawa (http://itac.ca/site/media_details/1828). The key point ITAC took away from that update was that the true raison d’être for this strategy is to ensure that Canada becomes and remains a leader in ICT – a leader in developing ICT skills, a leader in rolling out broadband infrastructure, a leader in creating public policy environments that encourage financial investments in technological innovation, and a leader in the use of digital technology to improve our productivity and our public services.
In order to demonstrate ITAC’s support of this idea, this will be the first in a series of written reflections on the status of the DES and what it needs to accomplish. They will take on a Q&A format to encourage maximum participation among ITAC members and other key players in the Canadian ICT industry. We encourage you to submit any questions you may have, as well as any feedback on our responses to them.
To begin, let’s focus on the fundamental underpinning of the strategy: broadband.
What is ITAC’s stance on the development of broadband infrastructure in Canada?
Canada must become and remain a leader in broadband.
After extensive consultation with our members, as well as some outside our membership (many of whom study broadband climates in competitor nations), we have come to see that a key criterion for successful broadband rollout is the setting of goals and targets for all Canadians – not just those in easy-to-reach urban areas. We must avoid a “digital divide” by extending our aspirations and goals to both urban and rural Canada.
Second, we have found that in establishing our goals in this area, we are focusing too heavily on download speeds, as opposed to taking a more holistic approach to broadband. While download speed is an important metric, we also need to keep our eyes on how much capacity is available for download each month, for instance, in order to fully determine how functional our population can be within this new digital age. If we focus too concertedly on one metric, we risk missing the bigger picture.
Third, broadband is not only about building physical infrastructure. It’s also about being sure we have comprehensive strategies for enhancing things like digital literacy, the digitization of public services, the promotion of broadband adoption by SMEs, and so on. This is not an “if you build it, they will come” scenario. We must build the necessary infrastructure, but we must also be sure our population knows how to use it.
Fourth, making full use of broadband involves the adoption of numerous technologies. In our business and policy decisions, we must be cognizant of the fact that wire-line, fixed wireless and mobile technologies all have a role to play. The minute one pillar is neglected, the strength of the entire structure is compromised.
Finally, our objective should be to rely mainly on private sector business investments to roll-0ut our broadband infrastructure. We do need help from the government on the establishment of an economic environment that promotes business investment. The government can help do this by making an increased amount of spectrum available for purchase, for instance, and by avoiding the taxation of broadband.
Recently, one aspect of broadband use has sparked significant controversy in Canada: usage-based billing. The CRTC decision involves wholesale rates for one carrier. Other carriers have been allowed for years to apply usage-based rates for their wholesale customers. Yet the reports and commentaries about the decision would lead you to believe that retail rates (which are not even regulated by the CRTC) were about to increase massively for all Canadians. However, the discussion around usage-based billing showed that we were prescient in saying that we need to consider more than just download speed, and include questions of capacity in setting our broadband aspirations. Whether we talk about download speed or capacity, one thing is clear: we will need massive amounts of investment in both wire-line and wireless networks to meet the ongoing enormous growth of traffic on the internet and in terms of internet used by Canadians.
Recent data has stated that Canadians are among the heaviest internet users in the world. For instance, comScore’s March 2011 report, “Canada Digital Year in Review 2010” states that the average Canadian spends 43.5 hours on the internet per month, nearly twice the worldwide average of 23.1 (http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Presentations_Whitepapers/2011/2010_Canada_Digital_Year_in_Review). Canadians also ranked first in the number of website visits per user per month, and second in the number of pages viewed.
Furthermore, we’re consistently at the front of the pack in peer-to-peer file sharing at very high levels. This shows that the internet here, in general, must perform well. However, projections of growth in internet use spurred by the increasing use of video and explosion of social networks mean that even with tremendous advances in technology, our wireless networks and even wire-line networks will be hard put to keep up with traffic demands. And yet we already invest millions of dollars every year into those networks.
In closing, ITAC would like to salute the federal government for taking such steps as freezing spectrum rates, in an attempt to foster an optimally healthy broadband environment in Canada. It is clear this is a priority for them, and ITAC is committed to working together with the government toward this end. We would encourage government to continue working toward freeing up as much spectrum as possible in order to achieve this goal.
In our comments on broadband, it is not ITAC’s intent to wade in between our members, some of whom are wholesale customers while others are wholesale providers. We will work tirelessly, however, as an advocate for this industry, as well as the health of our economy and society. From there, we will rely on the CRTC to take all facts into account when determining what is best for competition and what’s right to promote the abundant and sustained investment in this technology that is so necessary to our nation’s economic health.
We welcome your comments on this DES update. If you have any thoughts you'd like share with ITAC, please contact Brendan Glauser at email@example.com. Thank you.