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Three organizations publish roadmap for Canada’s digital economy
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Three organizations publish roadmap for Canada’s digital economy 

John Reid, president and CEO, CATAAlliance, offered deeper insight into the organizations’ recommendations to improve Canada’s digital economy.

ICTC, the CIO Association of Canada and CATAAlliance proposed a number of suggestions for Canadian businesses of all sizes in its roadmap. Their research showed that companies, especially SMEs, do not view technology as a subject for serious executive and managerial discussions. The authors of the roadmap applauded the government’s Digital Canada 150 plan to boost the country’s digital economy. However, they added that there is more that can be done.

The three organizations advised larger companies to assist SMEs in adopting technologies that will strengthen the supply chain and make it more efficient. Furthermore, a network of digital technology adoption advisers should be established, similar to the one that is available to SMEs through IRAP. And while the roadmap’s authors praised the Canadian government’s generous tax credits, they suggested implementing additional mechanisms such as crowdfunding to expand the pool of capital available to the country’s startups. On the topic of tax credits, the authors added that policy makers should consider additional incentives if market forces do not create sufficient technological adoption.

Digital literacy received heavy emphasis. The roadmap counseled public schools to partner with industry and teach digital skills at an early age. Also, the authors recommended that SMEs forge partnerships with educational institutions at all levels to develop future members of the workforce. In addition, college and university students must be given greater co-op and placement opportunities so they possess the relevant skills when they graduate. On the topic of training, the roadmap urges business leaders to keep themselves up to date with technology.

The roadmap also touched on the topic of open data; the authors encouraged the government and research institutions to make this information accessible to SMEs. Security was also an important issue, with the authors advocating security-by-design and privacy-by-design enterprise architecture approaches. The authors concluded their recommendations by entreating Canada’s business leaders to take responsibility for having informed conversations about digital adoption.

Reid acknowledged that implementing this advice might be easier said than done. “One of the key barriers is the lack of technology understanding within the organization,” he said. “SMEs often lack dedicated technical staff, or even in medium and larger-sized enterprises in which talent has been trained for an earlier environment, there is often a lack of specific emerging technology expertise. Business leaders and their staff may have a cursory understanding of how to use technology such as desktops or even tablets and smartphones but lack an understanding of awareness about how these technologies can be married with business needs to innovate. Other hurdles include access capital and other resources needed for growth as well as cultures that are not open to change.”

How can these barriers be overcome? “You need a staff member who asks the right digital questions and is able to help integrate the new technologies for competitive advantage,” Reid responded. He predicted that this situation will improve in coming years. “We see a future where all organizations will have digital officers as part of their management team,” Reid explained.

Reid emphasized the importance of the government’s role in increasing the speed of digital adoption in Canada. “There are two forces that will affect the speed of adoption; awareness of the benefits of digital adoption, leading to a culture that embraces innovation and change; and, financial incentives that add another advantage to adopting new technologies for boosting productivity and competitiveness,” he remarked. “Suitable incentives will accelerate the process of adoption to a tipping point where Canada as a nation will boost its lagging innovation adoption metrics.”

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