Trumpeting Toronto Tech

This Monday was the first day of the Toronto Tech Week conference. The event’s goal is to foster Toronto as a tech sector and help position local companies to make the most of new and emerging technology. As such, Web 2.0 was a hot topic.

Despite the much-hyped claim that Toronto is the third largest tech centre in North America, I am, however, dubious of this claim. My suspicion is that there is a lot of IT work going on here as we are a centre for corporate head-offices, but I don’t know of a lot of companies doing innovative and/or wildly successful things in Toronto and the post-secondary options are limited and generally out-dated. Various speakers did point out that not enough was being done by government, education, and business to really make Toronto a viable tech centre. The Mayor of Toronto, David Miller, provided the opening keynote address, signalling the City’s commitment to this issue.

Overall, the Toronto Tech Week first day had a good batch of speakers from business, academia, and government.

The day’s highlight for me was a panel discussion on the Corporate Adoption of Web 2.0, which offered good tips and caveats for how companies can use web 2.0. The message from all speakers (and one I definitely support) is that companies need to decide first what they want to achieve and then decide the technology, rather than start with the technology. Web 2.0, it was agreed, is not about the technology, but rather the ability to connect companies with their customers in on-going conversations. When asked whether all companies should adopt web 2.0, one speaker, Sean Moffitt of Agent Wildfire, pointed out that for companies who aren’t completely above board, it probably is best to not start that conversation, as it will undoubtedly not be good. However, Mike McDerment of Freshbooks, added that if you don’t do it, your competitor will. John Meyers of Open Text noted in his experience of technology adoption, it takes ten years for new tech to be absorbed and embraced and by 2015 with web 2.0 “it’ll be like why was there any discussion”.

This discussion was followed by the presentation of Canada’s Web 2.0 Awards handed out by Backbone Magazine and KPMG. Other discussions at the conference focused on how to help recruit technology workers, how to foster Toronto’s technology sector, and how companies can best implement web 2.0.

Attendance seemed to be lacklustre, however, which I feel is due to this conference being targetted to C-level executives (who don’t really have the time to attend these things) and then priced accordingly. Also, I was surprised that despite the tech sector’s youthful and non-traditional workforce, the attendees were primarily Suits over 50. I feel this missed the opportunity to bring in larger numbers and diversity of people working in the tech sector.

This is the second year for Toronto Tech Week and judging by the first day they got some really good discussions started. My hope for next year is that it opens up to a wider cross section of the tech sector to help Toronto create the vitality and innovation needed to make this City the tech sector it wants (and claims) to be.