Digital and Data Roundtable Summary: August 20, 2018—Nanaimo, BC

Hosted by Minister Bains
Areas of Focus: All action areas

Highlights of Discussion

Cyber security is a large emerging economic sector in technology with great potential, both globally and within Canada. However, the sector experiences skills shortages with many jobs left unfilled, as not enough skilled workers are being trained in cyber security. While some post-secondary institutions are creating these programs, like the Waterloo Cybersecurity and Privacy institute at the University of Waterloo, more are needed.

Digital marketing customer acquisition, particularly in a global marketplace, is helping businesses to succeed as traditional models have largely been disrupted. These digitally-focused go-to-market strategies should be included in all post-secondary education, along with other creative ways to help foster digital skills set for the next generation of technology-enabled businesses. Mentorship could be provided through incubator / accelerator programs and their Executives-in-Residence.

Key Opportunities / Considerations / Challenges

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI continues to be a priority sector for Canadian and global technology development. It is a place where Canada could find a niche advantage through programs that encourage significant growth of lower-level AI “prep” industries, targeting data access, anonymization and cleaning technologies. Investing in these AI prerequisite skills could help Canada quickly build critical mass that would ultimately build, attract and retain top-tier AI talent.
Some Canadian business supports are not seen as competitive compared to those in the US, for example the Silicon Valley Bank (IP, Interest). Canada could also benefit from increased capital support. Canada is great at creating technology start-ups, but has difficultly scaling up, and many Canadian companies migrate to the US due to market size and capital availability. Federal supports such as VCAP and VCCI help, but further support is needed with more competitive terms. US-based entities are often perceived as more willing to accept risk, including around financing innovative technology adoption.
Legal Frameworks
Canada should look to develop a modernized legal framework that addresses emerging technology issues (privacy, trust, digital healthcare, etc.) while remaining flexible enough to adapt as necessary. These legal frameworks should also enable agile regulations.
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity should be considered in all policy design, both in the private and public sector. The technology sector should also work to bring in diverse talent, including engaging Indigenous Youth as they are the fastest growing demographic in Canada. It also means bridging the rural and urban divide, particularly by urging continued and sustained investments in internet and cellular access.
Focus on skills training and education should go beyond coding as not everyone needs to be a software developer, and basic digital literacy skills are important. Soft-skills and tech-enabled sales and business development skills will also be key, particularly to help develop C-Suite talent.
Government Procurement
Governments, both federal and provincial, need to maximize the use of test-beds for homegrown technology development through. Some emerging start-ups view working on government procurement as risky as the length of time to close a deal can be long and governments tend to be more risk-averse. More flexible terms, particularly around ownership of IP and licensing of solutions, may make it more beneficial for start-up ventures to engage with government procurement processes.

Ideas / Outcomes

Digital Literacy
Canada could benefit from more programs specifically geared towards digital literacy for children. This could include coding boot-camps that have more than one track, and could teach broad skills such as agile development principles and entrepreneurship. Statistics Canada could play a leading role in increasing digital literacy and numeracy, including open data initiatives that encourage digital literacy adoption and the growth of data-focused skills development.
Digital Healthcare
Investments in digital identity could help move digital healthcare forward in a way that would empower patients, improve outcomes and ensure the right privacy/trust dimensions are captured and addressed.
Work-integrated Learning
Co-op programs provide useful on the job experience and help connect youth to in-demand sectors. A tailored co-op program that would enable cyber security companies to hire and train Canadian graduates could be considered.

Attendee List

  1. Innovation Island Technology Association
  2. Big Bang Analytics
  3. EIO Diagnostics
  4. HYAS Infosec
  5. Centre of Applied Research, Technology and Innovation, North Island College
  6. Intraworks IT
  7. Quartech Systems
  8. Coulson Ice Blast
  9. Purpose Five
  10. Virtual eAdmin / Cree8iv Collaborations
  11. Alacrity Foundation