Canada Launches National Consultations on the Data-Driven Economy

It takes one person to create data, but it takes a nation to figure out the best ways to use it.

The Canadian government has officially launched national consultations on digital and data transformation as they look to better understand the economic opportunities afforded by a data-driven society. These consultations will look to understand how Canada drives innovation both domestically and abroad, prep the country for the future of work, and ensure every citizen has confidence in how their data is being used.

“Today, AI and big data are transforming all industries and sectors,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. “They are presenting new opportunities for innovators to create jobs and generate prosperity. We have an opportunity to build a digital legacy for Canada and to become a global innovation leader. However, to spur digital innovation, investment and job creation in Canada, citizens must have trust and confidence that their data and privacy will be protected. This consultation is a first step in making this vision a reality.”

Throughout the summer, the government will host roundtable consultations in cities across the country, inviting businesses, academia, civil servants and others to discuss how to balance a data-driven economy with Canadians’ right to privacy.

The first roundtable took place yesterday in Ottawa and featured several large tech companies, including Cisco Canada, Element AI, Siemens Canada, and the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC).

“Data is a resource that can help define Canada’s economic opportunity in the coming decade,” said Robert Watson, president and CEO of ITAC. “[This] announcement shows that the federal government recognizes that a strategy is required to balance privacy, consumer trust and the security needs of Canadians–and is making the necessary changes to help put Canada in a position of growth and as a data-driven economy.”

With these consultations, it appears there will be a distinct focus on how data can drive non-obvious sectors such as agriculture, mining, construction and others. Many Canadians are aware that data has a huge role to play when it comes to software and financial companies, but are less aware of how it can play a huge role in other sectors. These consultations will look to introduce new ways that data can impact different fields—kind of like what the government’s Smart Cities Challenge is doing, in the sense that the proposals cover all of the above, as well as crime, housing, and other social frameworks.

Canadians can head online here and share their thoughts about the new data economy in three separate surveys titled Unleashing innovation, Trust and privacy, and The future of work. Some of the questions included in these surveys are shown below and they encourage participants to write in their answers.

  • “How do we ensure that Canada benefits from the intellectual property developed here?”
  • “What tools and opportunities do you feel are important to equip Canadian youth with the skills they need for the future?”
  • “Do you feel you are well informed about your privacy rights and the steps taken to protect your data and privacy?”
  • “Does the size of a company influence your trust in how it protects your personal data? Do you have more trust in larger, well-established companies or in smaller ones?”
  • “What can your employer do to help you succeed in your job as digital technologies become more widespread?”

Canadians can also just leave general comments about data and their thoughts on the consultations as well. Those comments, as well as the answers to these surveys, will be fed into the roundtable discussions and a final report will be compiled in September. You can also expect some more roundtables to be announced in the near future, as well as the tech companies and other organizations who will be participating.