Where the i-Canada movement needs to lead

New Brunswick Premier David Alward speaks at a gathering of public servants, vendors and industry groups in Toronto this week. Learn the “seven habits of highly effective communities”

Share this article:

For New Brunswick premier David Alward, there was one telltale sign that, in his province at least, the growth of the IT sector has returned to a position of health and prosperity.

“I’m pleased to say that, once again, there is a waiting list for the computer science department in (the University of) New Brunswick,” Alward told the audience this week at the i-Canada Summit, a gathering of technology industry groups, public servants and vendors that was discussing how we can create more “intelligent communities” across Canada. Intelligent communities are defined by the i-Canada Alliance as having several common characteristics, some of which are fairly easy to measure (broadband connectivity, digital inclusion) and several which aren’t, such as innovation, having a “knowledge workforce,” marketing and advocacy. The idea is that if you have an intelligent community, you will see more job creation, economic growth and basically everything else a local government would probably want.

Beyond a renewed interest in studying technology, Alward went on to do the thing most politicians do, which was to salute the many local technology company success stories in his province, such as XploreNet and Radian6 (now part of Salesforce.com). What he didn’t really talk about – and what may be more critical to creating more intelligent communities – is adoption within the local business sector itself.

There is obviously great value in creating the tax incentives, business development programs and other tools that help entrepreneurs launch a technology startup, just as it’s critical to ensure post-secondary institutions are arming the next generation workforce with the skills necessary to contribute to those startups and established firms. But equally important is that local firms buy and use technologies to make them more efficient and competitive. This could include cloud computing, big data, unified communications – it will obviously depend on the individual firm. But collectively Canadian companies, in New Brunswick or elsewhere, continue to be highly cautious about being first to experiment with almost anything in IT.

“We continues to fall in international rankings around productivity and innovation,”Alward noted, wondering aloud if those at the i-Canada Summit (and, presumably, those in Ottawa) would continue to let that slide. It’s a difficult position for the public sector. They aren’t in a position to foist technologies on companies, but their participation in events like this week’s summit are a sign they are willing to look for new ideas.

To try and suggest the kind of traits Canadians need to cultivate, the i-Canada Summit sessions were organized around “the 7 Habits of highly effective communities.” Intelligent communities are open, collaborative, and fast. They are strategic, value-focused, and operate in a ubiquitous manner. Finally, they are analytical in everything they do.

Governments can help lead the movement towards intelligent communities by ensuring they take on these habits in their own internal use of IT, then demonstrate the results for private sector organizations to follow their example. That’s what I hope we’ll see at the i-Canada Summit 2013.

Share this article:
Comments are closed.