The Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) released a four part series of papers, focused on fundamental priorities that must be addressed by the government and the Innovation Agenda in order to succeed: Modern Digital Economy, Trade and Competitiveness, Modern Digital Government, and Talent and Skills Development.
Excerpts from each paper follows, with links to the full reports.
Modern Digital Economy
Many researchers note a correlation between digital infrastructure, technology adoption, and a country’s productivity levels.
Canada could be looked to as one example: digital technologies are indeed modernizing traditional industries such as mining, automotive and manufacturing, helping them increase productivity and global competitiveness. That said, Canada continues to lag behind other developed nations when it comes to business adoption of technology—due in part to a taxation and regulatory environment that fails to incent private sector investment in digital technologies and infrastructure.
To realize the economic, social and democratic benefits of the digital economy, Canada must work harder to create world-leading digital infrastructure and facilitate the broader adoption of technology.
Summary of Recommendations:
- Create a digital infrastructure by:
- standardizing and increasing the CCA to 50% for ICT classes of assets
- seeking out industry and government partners to enable 5G in Canada
- expanding the definition of “infrastructure” to include “digital” (e.g., telecommunications networks and core supporting technologies)
- Provide telehealth services and e-learning opportunities to all Canadians by:
- investing $30 million over three years to Canada Health Infoway
- integrating e-learning components into all Federal education programs and initiatives
- Demystify technology to encourage adoption by:
- developing a strategic Internet of Things approach, similar to competing countries
- doing more to educate Canadians and businesses on cyber security
- finding ways to support SMEs to adopt technology
Trade and Competitiveness
Helping Canadian ICT businesses scale and expand globally builds a digital Canada. As access to new markets becomes increasingly important, so too does ensuring governments provide targeted programs that help ICT companies scale globally and build on innovation.
While R&D and export programs exist in Canada, there remain areas for improvement. These areas represent opportunities for the Government of Canada to strengthen how it supports growth across all Canadian businesses—including ICT.
Summary of Recommendations:
- Foster competitiveness on a global scale by:
- maintaining Canada’s competitive corporate tax environment, and not implementing tax policies that make it difficult to retain top talent
- conducting a holistic review of Canada’s Tax and R&D framework to ensure it meets the needs of Canada’s technology industry
- creating a dynamic, pro-innovation regulatory environment and new platforms that support demand-driven R&D
- working with industry and provincial partners to increase capital access for fast-growing firms
- Increase access to export markets and support digital commerce by:
- working with partners to approve the CanadaEurope Trade Agreement, Trans-Pacific Partnership, and a new WTO Trade in Services Agreement
- collaborating with international partners to develop interoperable approaches to privacy, data security and open trade in services over the internet
- developing common approaches with other countries to combat frivolous, innovation suppressing intellectual property litigation
- harmonizing and removing unnecessary provincial and national barriers to open digital commerce
- broadening trade support programs to better serve small businesses who export worldwide via the internet and to help innovative technology firms find anchor customers at home
Digital Government In the modern economy, a digitally enabled government is not only expected: it is absolutely critical to engaging with citizens and staying competitive on the world stage.
In response to public demand and competition with other governments, the Government of Canada is leveraging information communications technologies (ICTs). But this is not enough to be a truly digital government.
Rather, as the government seeks to develop a successful Innovation Agenda and move Canada’s digital needle forward, it must also realize its role in using ICT to transform and modernize its very own infrastructure.
In doing so, the government can build a platform that fuels digitization, supports single-window mandates, and successfully delivers simple and secure citizen- and business-centric services.
Canada also needs to ensure a highly efficient and enabled environment to attract businesses to locate and stay here. As such, this government needs to understand the role it must play in providing organizations with a modern platform in which to operate and interact with government.
There are many advantages to building a truly digital government—particularly the opportunity to leverage procurements surrounding transformation, modernization and digitization initiatives to help companies operating in Canada to grow and scale.
Summary of Recommendations:
- Invest in today to fuel tomorrow
- Solve the legacy dilemma by identifying and accounting for all costs needed to maintain the infrastructure, and set aside funds for transition
- Centralize digital leadership to ensure a whole of-government approach to its transformation, modernization and digitization initiatives
- Mind the government talent gap by better understanding the upskilling requirements of government ICT workers, and building programs to support its workforce development requirements
- Modernize procurement
- Create one procurement playbook that reduces duplication, balances cost/value, supports demand and achieves shorter time-to-market
- Collaborate with industry to develop a procurement policy that fits 21st century requirements and supports socio-economic interests
- Build a modern government by tapping into industry first
- Develop a robust, consistent engagement process with the ICT sector by extending engagement efforts to the pre-planning and final development stages of all ICT-related initiatives
- Create ICT leadership advisory councils to help guide the Government in transforming and modernizing its infrastructure, while making strong and secure digital leaps forward to innovate public service delivery
Talent and Skills Development
Globally, talent—or lack thereof—is the single biggest issue standing in the way of Chief Information Officers achieving their objectives in today’s digital economy. Unfortunately, talent management practices are not keeping up with the ever-increasing and changing needs of the digital world.
The shortage of skilled ICT talent in the technology sector is a major issue hampering the growth of innovative companies in Canada. Meanwhile, our nation’s longstanding skills gap amongst ICT workers continues to widen. In fact, by 2019, Canada will need 182,000 ICT (Information and Communications Technology) workers— with an additional 36,000 required just one year later. This prediction does not include emerging occupations or disruptive technology fields.
Canada is not alone in experiencing a skills gap. The European Commission anticipates a shortfall of 825,000 ICT positions by 2020; and the United States Labor Department forecasts 1.4 million computer specialist job openings by 2020—with domestic universities being unable to keep up with this demand.3
Canada has the potential to become a leader in the global digital economy. To do so, the Government must act swiftly to create, attract, and retain the talent of tomorrow’s economy. This requires continued focus on developing skills locally, while attracting talent globally.
Summary of Recommendations:
- Solving the problem domestically
- Provide and support targeted programs and scholarships to encourage more women to enter ICT
- Expand the CareerMash program nationally by providing $2.5 million in funding over five years
- Continue investing in experiential learning, digital literacy and upskilling
- Collect detailed, granular labour market data about ICT employment
- Solving the problem internationally
- Exempt ICT companies from having to disclose salaries in LMIA ads, and clarify the definition of “specialized knowledge” in International Mobility and TFW programs
- Develop policy mechanisms to facilitate the repatriation of Canadian talent working abroad
Feature image source: Dimitris Vetsikas