Canada needs to up its game when it comes to information and communication technology, according to an Ottawa-based technology association.
The Information Technology Association of Canada has released a whitepaper (PDF) calling for the Government of Canada to develop an information and communication technology strategy, along with providing recommendations on what that strategy should be.
Key points from the paper include a focus on broadband infrastructure: Canada was once a world leader in broadband penetration and technology but has fallen behind in recent years. In fact, the country is in danger of falling further behind with Australia moving on a plan that calls for $43 billion to spent on broadband.
The ITAC calls for an assessment of Canada’s current situation and look at both public and private investment to create a “Made in Canada” situation to keep broadband moving forward along with dealing with the uniquely Canadian challenge of a small population spread across a large territory.
Along with infrastructure, talent and investment are another big focus in the ITAC paper.
To increase IT industry talent pools, the association is calling on both government and industry to help promote IT careers to high school students and those looking for mid-career changes.
Regarding investment, the ITAC recognizes the venture capital challenge to information communication and technology start-ups, noting that they require significant funds and have a long gestation period before returns.
To address this, the paper recommends “Fund of Funds” programs which create an investment portfolio rather than sinking money directly into the companies. The ITAC notes that British Columbia and Ontario have launched such programs which can bring more resources into Canada’s VC market with matching private sector investment.
The paper calls on the government to ensure these funds find their way to the market in such a way that they do benefit new technology companies.
Finally, the paper calls on government at the federal and provincial levels to become the prime adopters of ICT and undertake initiatives like electronic health records and digitizing Canadian knowledge.
“Like many other nations in the world, Canada is currently facing a challenging economy,” said Bernard Courtois, President and CEO of ITAC. “History has demonstrated numerous examples of hugely successful enterprises that emerged from periods of economic turmoil. What these companies have in common is a strategy and the fortitude to make the right investments in technology to help them outperform their rivals. We’ve seen this repeatedly in the marketplace. And we’ve seen it at the national economic level as well. Canada already punches above its weight in ICT. But no matter how good they are, competitors – including competitive economies – generally compete better when they have a strategy than when they don’t. Canada needs a national ICT strategy now.”