The State of the ICT Industry
By Lynda Leonard, Senior Vice-President ITAC
On February 2, 2009, ITAC inaugurated what we hope will be an annual event for public policy makers in the Federal and Provincial Governments. The "State of the ICT Industry" briefing responded to a specific suggestion from senior government leaders to present a coherent view of what's new and exciting in the world of technology to key members of the public service. The idea is to assemble some of the freshest data and some of the most thoughtful analysis from the ITAC community and give government a preview of what they can anticipate in terms of innovation and our sector's overall economic performance.
At ITAC we have almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to a talent pool of provocative experts in a position to contribute to events like this. In fact, the content for the first briefing was so good we decided to webcast their material for those who could not attend the briefing in person. The web casts will also serve as a resource for the wider ITAC community as well. If you have content or material that you believe would enrich our next "State of the ICT Industry," please contact us.
ITAC's "State of the ICT Industry" briefing for government occurred within two weeks of important political events such as the inauguration of President Obama and the tabling of the Federal Budget. So economic matters were present in the minds of all participants.
From his perspective as the Chief Operating Officer of SAP North America, ITAC's Chair Robert Courteau was in an excellent position to provide a cross-border perspective on the role of ICT in both Canada and the United States.
"In good times and bad there will always be a differentiation between market leaders and the also-rans," he said. "One of the key differentiators is their use of technology." Citing examples such as Citibank and a fast growing Canadian toy manufacturer, Spinmaster, Bob highlighted the foresight some companies are showing by treating the current downturn as a springboard for future competitive advantage through strategic ICT investments.
Bob took the opportunity to salute the Federal Government's grasp of this idea. "It was a good Budget," he said. "It shows that the government understands that technology will have an important impact on our economic recovery." He cited in particular the capital cost allowance for computer hardware and software and investments in 21st century infrastructure, such as broadband and electronic health records, as excellent indications of this understanding.
But he had some cautionary notes to sound as well. "When I look at what some of the other countries that are competing with are investing then I believe we have to take our performance to higher level. We need to have a stronger relationship between the private sector and government to achieve a stronger competitive position", he said.
Bob closed by articulating key requirements necessary for the health of the ICT sector and overall economy. His list included addressing the ICT talent shortage, improving the venture capital climate and improving the government's own use of ICT.
As the managing director of IDC Canada, Vito Mabrucco devotes a great deal of his time to numbers...collecting, analyzing and discussing the numbers that provide the key indicators of the performance of Canada's ICT industry. Sometimes the numbers he studies are sobering, sometimes they can even look scary.
Some of the more sobering data points in Vito's presentation at the "ICT State of the Nation" briefing" revolved around the size of the ICT labour market in emerging countries such as China and India. They illustrated, as Vito put it, both a challenge and an opportunity for Canada. "They represent a young, consuming, opportunistic crowd that's developing in these markets,” he said. "To capture the opportunity (there are over 1billion cell phones in China and India combined) we need to build a stronger export culture into everything we do."
Comparisons between OECD members' investments in ICT were also sobering. IDC data places Canada behind the U.S., the U.K. Sweden and Denmark, equal with France and just ahead of Italy. In Vito's assessment this would merit a C+ grade for Canada.
Vito's numbers grew more chilling as he charted projections for ICT spending in Canada. He noted that overall the growth in the sector has been faster than the overall economy for all but two of the past 40 years. And forecasts as recent as September showed the growth holding. But news of the economic downturn had a predictable downward impact on the projections - and in the process has made IDC's monthly release of forecast information even more compelling material for the whole industry.
Vito was nevertheless upbeat reminding the audience of the cyclical nature of ICT and its vulnerability to broader economic bad news. "We've seen this before," he reminded participants. He also provided a useful historic data point. "IDC studied the last Asian liquidity crisis," he said. "Our studies show that countries that invested the most in ICT - such as Korea - recovered the fastest."
When governments think about customer service, they need to take the wider, multipurpose relationship into account. There is a tendency to focus on service delivery, whereas this is only one area of contact between citizen and government.
Julie McQueen, Director of Research Accenture Institute for Public Service Value says governments must move beyond a focus on improving the quality of the service transaction with customers and redefine their relationship with the people they serve. Julie outlined the recent results of Accenture's hallmark study of economic performance among nations. It tracks, among other things, citizen’s opinions of government services, and what governments can do to improve customer service.
Some of the suggestions from the survey suggest government can do a better job in interacting with its citizens, including recognizing that people have different levels of needs and providing differentiated services to improve equality of outcomes. Julie's data showed that strategies such as conducting detailed customer segmentation based on needs and behaviours in order to offer tailored services, and organizing services around customer segments and needs, rather than an organization’s internal structures would improve citizen engagement in electronic government.
Duncan Stewart, in demand as a respected market watcher and financial columnist, took time from a busy schedule of public events outlining Deloitte's Predictions all across the country, to share his insights with ITAC's State of the ICT Industry briefing.
He, too, was quick to point out the upside of a downturn. "Remember that Microsoft was founded during the 1980-82 recession," he said. "And Google emerged out of the dot.com meltdown." He lamented that more company's don't emulate this behaviour and boost their R&D investment counter-cyclically, noting that, "...every dollar invested today is the equivalent of five to 20 times more valuable than an investment made three years ago".
Among the areas Duncan identified as ripe for success in this economy are smart grid technologies, netbooks, electronic content management, social networking and telecom network components.
"Low hanging fruit" is how Duncan described smart grid technologies. While wind and solar technology face cycles of 20 to 40 year paybacks, companies working to increase the efficiency of our electrical grid are seeing much more rapid ROI. He cited Mississauga based Rugged Com which produces routers expressly for the hydro substation market as an excellent example of this.
He noted that netbooks are a burgeoning business. "Nine out of ten of the top selling laptops are netbooks," he said. Tapping Steven Speilberg to illustrate the vast amounts of data currently in storage, he also underscored the importance of content management and business intelligence tools (such as those produced by Opentext and IBM Cognos) to help us make sense of it all.
"Social networking is not a fad or a toy," Duncan said. He described Deloitte's own experience with their Predictions program. Placing program materials on Facebook, streaming promotional videos on YouTube photos on Flickr gave the company a breathtaking return. "Our attendance was up 100 per cent in Toronto ... half of the audience questions came from online sources," he said. He noted that understanding the importance of Web 2.0 tools as both talent attraction and retention tools will be critical for all businesses.
Call For Nominations - ITAC IT Hero Awards
An independent judging panel is assembled comprised of distinguished individuals with intimate knowledge of Canada’s IT sector. The awards will be presented at the Chair’s Dinner taking place June 23, 2009 in Toronto. We still have opportunities available for sponsorship. Please contact Cindy Scott at email@example.com for more information and a copy of the sponsorship package. For more information or to nominate visit http://www.itheroawards.ca.
PST and Custom Software
ITAC Meets With the Office of Procurement Ombudsman
RFID Seminar -
Hosted by ITAC
Presents: Ontario's eHealth Strategy Breakfast Event
The Audacity of
Imagination: Microelectronics’ New Millennium
Venture Forum 2009- Venture Capital Financing Solutions in Challenging Times
For a complete listing of all ITAC events go to: http://www.itac.ca/index.php/site/events/
The Eighth Annual RE$EARCH MONEY Conference Going
Global: Expanding the International Footprint of Canadian Technology Firms
In collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International
IN 09 The Interactive Exchange
Intel Premier IT Knowledge Awards – Call For
Woodgreen Volunteer Services – Call For Mentors in
the IT Profession
The 21st Annual Profit 100
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