Digital advocacy non-profits join forces to address barriers to scaling for Canadian tech companies

Mark Mann
October 2, 2019

The CIO Strategy Council (CIOSC) is partnering with the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) to collaborate on issues related to scaling for Canadian tech companies. Having collaborated frequently at roundtables and consultations, the two not-for-profit member-based organizations found they were tackling the same set of issues confronting Canadian tech companies, chiefly the need for standardization, better practices for data governance, and the scarcity of talent.

Founded in 2017, the CIOSC brings together chief information officers and chief innovation officers from government and industry to collaborate on the development of Canada's digital economy. ITAC, meanwhile, has been lobbying on behalf of Canadian ICT firms for more than 60 years. They represent a sector that employs over one million Canadians and invests $4.9 billion annually in R&D, according to the ITAC website.

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Co-chaired by Jim Balsillie and Alex Benay, and led by executive director Keith Jansa, the CIOSC  has concentrated on developing standards for nascent technologies. For example, the CIOSC developed a draft standard for the ethical use of machine learning in 2018, and consulted extensively with ITAC through that process. Currently, the CIOSC is working on establishing a recognized standard for the qualification of artificial intelligence and machine learning personnel, which is intended to improve the pipeline of talent for Canadian AI companies by speeding up the development of educational programs. Related to that, the CIOSC is also creating a format for work-integrated learning in the AI sector.

“Identifying big data and AI professionals is a real challenge as demand continues to increase and technology becomes ever more ubiquitous across all sectors of the economy,” said Jansa in an email to RE$EARCH MONEY. “This is in part why the CIO Strategy Council is developing a standard with a common set of requirements for the qualification and certification of big data and AI professionals.”

Data governance is another area of emphasis for the partnership, which will adopt "an action-oriented focus on enabling our scale-ups and on driving a responsible technology environment where protection of our data is arguably the biggest challenge of our time," said Angela Mondou, president and CEO of ITAC, in a press release. This action-oriented focus could include joint panels, use cases, proofs-of-concept and pilots. In an email with RE$EARCH MONEY, Mondou described the possibility of developing a "multi-sector ‘nexus’ of key stakeholders in the Cyber space" to collaborate on programming to assist SMEs, as well as potential programming to link Canadian scaleups with large corporations seeking innovation in their product roadmaps, software requirements, and R&D.

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