The Manitoba ICT Sector's Response to Improving Canada's Digital Advantage: Strategies for Sustainable Prosperity — Consultation on a Digital Strategy for Canada
Submitted by ICT Association of Manitoba 2010–07–12 13:15:44 EDT
Theme(s): Building Digital Skills, Canada's Digital Content, Digital Infrastructure, Growing the ICT Industry, Innovation Using Digital Technologies
The Information and Communication Technologies Association of Manitoba, on behalf of its members and the extended ICT community in our province, commend the Government of Canada for taking this important step towards developing a digital economy strategy for Canada. We applaud the leadership shown by Ministers Clement, Finley, and Moore in support of this initiative. A national digital strategy is vital to ensuring Canada's future in the global knowledge economy is robust, relevant and competitive.
In Manitoba, participating in the process to develop a truly national digital economy strategy is considered critical. We believe that to be successful, a forward–looking strategy must include contributions from across the entire country and we urge the Federal Government to conduct formal consultations in Manitoba with our ICT leaders. Without that level of participation, it will be difficult for the Manitoba ICT community to support any final document produced. To that end, we invite you to Manitoba and will be at your service to coordinate an open dialogue with our ICT leaders.
Within the industry, it is well accepted that while we experience similar pain points they manifests themselves differently from province to province and territory to territory. For example, Alberta, while it is considered one of the prairie provinces, cannot 'stand–in' for Manitoba when it comes to commenting or directing how issues should be addressed here and vice–versa. Issues may be inter–related, however, cookie cutter approaches will not necessarily bring about the right solutions. We contend that each region or province is well–equipped determine solutions to local challenges. Furthermore, it is because of this capability that we can be effective contributors in finding innovative solutions to the broader issues affecting Canada's competitiveness.
In addition, we support the recommendations made in the Information Technology Association of Canada's (ITAC) response and applaud them for the work they have done bringing the critical issue of growing our nation's technology expertise to the forefront. Indeed, they have been champions from the beginning as demonstrated through their intelligent and cogent approach in encouraging the Government of Canada towards implementing these consultations.
This document represents the collective views of the Manitoba ICT sector and its affiliated organizations on issues considered fundamental to the future success of our province and our nation. While measures and perspectives may vary, there is much commonality about what we view the Federal government needs to do in partnership with industry and academia in order to increase our competitiveness.
The strategies and actions identified represent key areas to pursue in order to meaningfully improve our competitive position. Primarily, priorities have been identified where objectives for ICT should be focused on with greater intensity. By contributing a response to the Government of Canada's consultation paper, the Manitoba ICT sector intends to provide meaningful ideas and perspectives that will contribute to an integrated and coherent strategy. We aspire to transcend the current silos that have historically created barriers to realizing the benefits ICT brings to Canada as a whole nation.
About Manitoba's ICT Sector
The Manitoba ICT sector is made up of the ICT equipment, communications (including telecommunications) and ICT services and software industries, as well as ICT focused activity in all of the other sectors of the economy. Moreover, the ICT sector enables most other 'user' industry sectors e.g. manufacturing, mining, agriculture, transport, retail and financial services, media and entertainment, government services including health, education, defense and security, policing, etc).
While the ICT equipment manufacturing segment's share of the market has declined significantly over the last decade, the communications, software and services segments are holding their own or growing in the face of competition. As well, the emergence of new technologies (e.g. digital TV, radio etc) and new digital industries (gaming, nano technology) can offer new opportunities to expand the Manitoba industry even further.
Furthermore, the ICT sector's economic impact on Manitoba is significant. We employ more than 15,000 people in 1,549 companies across the province. We export approximately $227 million worth of goods throughout the world and revenues from Manitoba's software publishing, data processing, hosting, computer systems design and related services totals $645 million.
Manitoba's Competitive Position in the ICT Sector
Manitoba is, by comparison, a poor promoter and exporter of its own innovation. Ironically, the Manitoba ICT industry's greatest comparative advantage is our strong solutions development and technology integration capability, but governments and government agencies have been slow to recognize it as an exportable service, and need to develop a better understanding of how to nurture, assist and help commercialize this local capacity.
By and large our local ICT businesses (over 95% of whom are small businesses) are still developing solutions for the domestic private sector. They need to exploit the international potential of their innovations more effectively and have better access to, and knowledge of, offshore problems which they could solve more effectively and innovatively than their global competitors.
Therefore, it is no longer appropriate to consider Manitoba's ICT efforts simply in terms of its core ICT service and manufacturing firms. The true value of information and communications technology and all of its needs and opportunities is better understood in terms of the cluster of core ICT services and manufacturing, those firms in other sectors that are enabled by ICT, as well as the wide range of educational, training, research, investment and government programs that support this sector.
The Manitoba ICT sector believes support for this sector should be a critical priority for the Manitoba Government and the Government of Canada. In partnership with government it should develop a blueprint for developing an internationally competitive ICT sector. It must promote entrepreneurial activity and infrastructure development through a supportive policy, regulatory and legislative environment.
The ICT sector must be able to enhance its capabilities and human capital, create demand for and drive commercialization of products and services and help to develop new products and services. It must also foster scale and enhance the ability of our firms to attract the necessary venture capital to create, exploit and license intellectual property globally.
Currently, there is no appreciation of the nature and strength of connections among firms, research and academic institutions and supporting programs. As a result, organizations, associations and government programs do not have the evidence needed to form more precise strategies and plans and determine, collectively, how to best advance the competitiveness of the sector in a cohesive, collaborative and integrated manner.
12 Sector Goals to Improve Canada's ICT Competitiveness
- Create a Resource for Current, Competitive Intelligence
To have a vibrant, innovative and globally competitive ICT industry that plans strategically for the future, based on accurate information and forecasting, furthers the goals of productivity in all other sectors of the Canadian economy and contributes to the economic development goals of Canada.
- Marketing and Branding
To have a strong ICT brand that presents a united front globally and is well known for innovation and quality in key international markets. The brand should encompass all digital ICT activity in Canada and should be driven by a close relationship between the industry and the various federal and provincial government departments and programs involved in innovation, commercialization and international trade.
- Innovation in Technology
To have an ICT industry that is a magnet for public and private investment to support R&D and commercialization of technology through development of multi–disciplinary commercial R&D and product realization.
- Innovation in Procurement Practices
To define and implement a model in which government becomes a key driver of ICT innovation through ICT purchasing, recognizing that as an ICT customer, government's procurement practices have a substantial impact on innovation in the ICT industry, that it can spur global market penetration by acting as a reference site.
a. To have an ICT industry with a leading skill base by world standards with government, industry and education providers working collaboratively to improve workplace skills, skill needs forecasting, workplace skills development and enhanced enrolment in ICT courses and programs.
b. To recognize that acquiring digital skills is an inalienable right of all Canadians and that the Government of Canada takes action to ensure all Canadians have access to education in digital skills.
- International Opportunities
To have technology businesses with the capacity and necessary government market intelligence and support to identify and respond to real international business opportunities and to convert these opportunities to positive business wins consistently.
- Collaboration and Global Integration
To have a ICT SME community that is highly integrated and inclusive and aimed at competing successfully on the world stage with the capability and necessary expertise available to access markets, attract venture capital and commercialize their technology solutions.
To have the infrastructure in Manitoba to support ICT entrepreneurs' acquisition of the managerial, technical and marketing skills to develop their businesses, compete for growth capital and move forward on national and international business opportunities.
- ICT Literacy
To build an community that is highly ICT literate and truly a technologically proficient society that adopts, adapts and embraces and exploits technology to its advantage and on an equitable basis.
- ICT Standards and Conduct
To build a strong base for innovation in the ICT industry by fostering the development and application of open technical and professional standards and by encouraging professionalism and the ethical and principled conduct of ICT practitioners.
- ICT Use among Corporate Canada
To enhance the ICT user base by promoting the strategic role of ICT in creating business value and improving service delivery aimed at executive and senior management in all organizations. This strategic direction can be undertaken in concert with other industry partners and can leverage existing structures that our nation's business leaders rely on.
Actions to Support Sector Goals
Business Growth and Commercialization
- Work toward a competitive investment environment, benchmarked against global standards, which promotes Canada as an attractive destination for ICT investment by developing relationships with non–resident venture capital funds and supporting the link between non–resident VC's and local companies.
- Benchmark the technology transfer processes and devise effective methods for success relative to global standards.
- Support resources for path finding and experienced mentorship to entrepreneurs launching ICT related or technology ventures
- Work with available government programs and describe new potential programs to define strategic requirements for commercialization and business growth and to put in place supports for industry success.
- Create enhancements to government procurement that enables firms to demonstrate a local impact on skills development through project legacy (i.e.: provides junior to expert experience through involvement in complex projects thus improving the local industry condition as compared to what it was before the project)
Access to Competitive Intelligence
- Creation of a resource centre that provides continuous, current competitive intelligence about Manitoba's ICT community — this resource will service the sector, academic and training institutions, research organizations, government and other industries with timely information on issues of broad and specific interest
- Recognize ICT to include its various sub–clusters or vertical markets (New Media, Games, E–learning, GPS, Nano technology)and work to understand and promote supply chains, global markets and benchmarking of the requirements and standards of competitor countries and regions relative to each sub–cluster.
Investing in People
Building the human capital necessary to grow Canada' ICT capacity and industry is a multi–disciplinary and highly integrated undertaking that will take cooperation and collaboration between industry, government and academia to achieve.
- Create incentives that would improve the ICT business case for corporate investment and include support for acquisition of skills required for the adoption of technology.
- Recognize that digital skills are an inalienable right of all Canadians. In the same way the Government of Canada has, historically, decided our nation must be linked by a national railroad and that we are bilingual country, so too must it accept the responsibility that all Canadians are entitled to participate in the new knowledge economy. It is not enough to have access to infrastructure, all our people must also know how to use it. Therefore, ICT curriculum needs to be developed from K to 12 through to our post–secondary institutions to provide every Canadian the opportunity to be digitally literate. Until this happens, we cannot say 'the last spike' has been driven in Canada.
- Establish Professional 'Apprenticeships' — there are many advantages to ICT in the apprenticeship model that can be adapted for various disciplines in ICT. Our recommendation is that we should look at the best aspects apprenticeship offers as a learning model and adapt it to those areas of ICT where it would be most suitable. The ICT industry and the Canadian Government should collaborate to consider new approaches in acquiring the always rapidly evolving nature of ICT skills that can be applied to new and existing ICT professionals.
- Develop programs that work to enable employers to access and hire skilled workers within identified groups such as immigrants, aboriginal people and youth.
- Work to rebuild the reputation for ICT as a career of choice within the current education system. Create programs to highlight the importance and value of ICT careers among young Canadians
- Work to identify students at risk of dropping out and provide opportunities for apprenticeship or technical training leading to a good job with chances of career advancement
- Create a network that includes company recruiters, career counsellors and college/university placement offices to develop methods to increase the supply of educated technology experts and to help identify and develop career paths.
Intelligent Digital Infrastructure
- Develop a technology roadmap to achieve broadband access for all Canadians – this includes intelligent infrastructure, smarter energy grids, e–health, e–learning and intelligent transportation systems.
There is an exciting opportunity here to position Canada as a leader in establishing intelligent digital infrastructure that could bring about a better quality of life for all Canadians while invigorating investment and innovation.