Digital and Data Roundtable Summary: September 20, 2018—Conference Call

Hosted by Lisa Setlakwe
Area of Focus: Across all Action Areas

Highlights of Discussion

Many of the key digital and data transformation related issues are shared at the federal and provincial/territorial level. Supporting technology adoption to increase business competitiveness is a key consideration across Canada. This is particularly difficult in non-technology sectors where businesses may be unaware of the benefits and opportunities that technology can offer them. In other words, they don't know what they don't know, so increased awareness is key. The skills gap is also a significant challenge across provinces and territories, due to the fact that the shortages are being identified now, but even if training programs are able to pivot, it takes time to fully train up these additional workers. Work-integrated learning solutions, an adaptive and responsive post-secondary education system as well as efficient reskilling initiatives are vital to success.

Key Opportunities / Considerations / Challenges

Technology Adoption
Businesses may be unaware of what technology is available and how it can enhance their competitiveness. Those that have this awareness, may lack the knowledge or capacity to implement. Increased awareness, knowledge sharing and independent advice could benefit many businesses. In addition, provinces have heard from companies that while they recognize the need to advance adoption, there are concerns for the disruption this will have on their workforce. Information and support on how they can support their employees to grow with them would be valuable.
Skills Gap
The digital economy is marked by rapid change, making it difficult to guide students on future skill needs. In smaller communities, particularly those in the Martimes, it is hard to retain/attract skilled workers and businesses. Provinces and Territories are also seeing high unemployment in certain sectors coupled with labour shortages in others, likely representing a skills mismatch. While maintaining a responsive educational system and increasing training spaces for in-demand fields is vital, reskilling initiatives are also needed to address short term issues. Solutions must also be all-encompassing, helping to skill the workforce at large, and not firm by firm.
Responsive Educational System
In order to provide the most skilled workforce, we must have a nimble post-secondary education system that is able to respond to changing needs. The jobs of the future require a holistic subset of different STEM and soft-skills. Many European countries are shifting their educational approach to address this and building a system that allows kids to explore jobs at a younger age. High school integration of work-integrated learning allows students to gain experience early on and acquire a wider variety of skills. We must also ensure that post-secondary institutions are able to attract skilled teachers, which can be difficult in high-demand fields where more opportunities are available in the private sector.
Changing Business Models
We are seeing a generational shift, with younger Canadians more likely to work multiple jobs, demand more flexibility in their jobs, or work outside the traditional economy. This has created a mismatch with some companies who desire more traditional loyal, long-term employees, however, are not willing to invest in training or benefits. In-demand skilled individuals have choices in this new economy and companies must adjust.
Data and Privacy
Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, etc. are data driven technologies with great potential. However, these advancements bring up issues of privacy, security, ownership, etc. that we must be prepared to address. We must also consider how global frameworks such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) impacts Canadian firms' ability to engage with international trading partners.

Ideas / Outcomes

Technology Adoption Assessment
A pilot test is underway in Quebec that helps businesses assess their needs and identify where they are on a technology adoption continuum. Applicants must go through this assessment process before they are eligible for funding. After identifying their techology needs, the program links the business with a bank of experts in a variety of areas, helping them to successfully adapt and integrate technology. The process is not costly, requiring around $10K — $20K for the full process. It is not a subsidy but instead a tool. The pilot is being tested in the retail, manufacturing and construction industries and has had great uptake. Similar programs could be explored in other provinces/territories or at the federal level.
Talent Advisory Council on Technology (TACT)
Alberta has instated a Talent Advisory Council on Technology that brings together leaders of industry, post-secondary institutions, students and labour to help guide Alberta's future in the technology field. The council will provide government with guidance and advice in order to increase access to a variety of educational opportunities and technology skills development programs. Similar programs could be explored in other provinces/territories or at the federal level.
Diversity and Inclusiveness Tax Credit
A diverse workforce has been shown to benefit the economy. Offering a moderate tax credit for businesses who can show they employ a diverse and inclusive workforce could help increase participation.

Participant List

New Brunswick

  • Traci Simmons — Vice President, Opportunities NB
  • Rene Boudreau — ADM Corporate Services, Department of Health
  • Heather Maclean — Director, Skills & Workforce Development, Cyber NB

Prince Edward Island

  • Joe Rowledge — Senior Advisor, Department of Economic Development and Tourism


  • M. Philippe Dubuisson — Sous-ministre associé aux politiques économiques, ministère de l'Économie, de l'Innovation et des Exportations


  • Greg Wootton — ADM of Research, Science and Strategy, Ministry of Economic Development and Growth
  • Damian Dupuy — Director, Innovation Economy Strategies, Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade


  • Michelle Wallace — Executive Director, Manitoba Growth, Enterprise and Trade
  • Jana Schott — Rural and Northern Economic Development, Province of Manitoba


  • Sonya Johnston — ADM, Strategic Policy and Corporate Services, Alberta Economic Development and Trade
  • Toby Schneider — Executive Director, Policy and Information, Alberta Economic Development and Trade


  • Susan Sandford — ADM, Information Communication Technologies, Ministry of Citizens' Services


  • Dave Heffernan — CIO, Government of Northwest Territories


  • Ted Hickey — Director, Government Information and Planning, Government of Nunavut