According to the World Economic Forum, Canada ranks only 26th in the world for Business Innovation.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ranks Canada at 22nd and IMF places Canada in 17th place.
There’s an array of Canadian think tanks tackling the issue of Canada’s innovation gap. The Conference Board of Canada has taken some of the most aggressive steps to combat this issue. This innovation gap must be bridged rapidly to ensure Canada’s economic position in the face of falling oil prices.
These poor results have an impact on all Canadians. In particularly, these results have a massive impact on the African Canadian community. Consider these numbers from the “Towards a Vision for the Black Community” report published in 2012 - “Only 6.6% of the Black community made over $60,000 annually versus 10.8% of the general population.”
Why does this matter? Information Technology careers tend to pay higher than average. Additionally, self-employed technology consultants reap the benefits of Small Business tax rates.
To solve the technology innovation problem in Canada, all levels of government must lead by example. While Canadians are able to interact with various government agencies such as ServiceOntario and the Canadian Revenue Agency online – there are still many backend processes that need to be improved.
For instance, there is much inefficiency in the health care sector when it comes to patient and doctor interaction. OHIP should count video on demand sessions between doctors and patients as official visits. This could significantly reduce backlogs at doctor offices across Ontario. While privacy has to be an uttermost concern when dealing with patient records, steps have to be taken to improve information sharing between various aspects of the health care system. For instance, a senior with dementia may have behaviour issues that prevent them from taking their allocated medication for a day. In many Long Term Care facilities, this is noted on a clip board manually. These incidents should be logged digitally, and made available to the family via a portal or mobile application.
A mobile application or a web portal on its own is not innovative. However when they are integrated with security tokens, and provide information that resides in complex systems – they then become innovative. Health Quality Innovation Collaborative (HQIC) based out of Brampton, Ontario has been one of the leading firms focused on improving patient and doctor interactions by leveraging technology. The Chief Technology Officer of HQIC is Orren Johnson, a Black Canadian. Under Orren’s technology leadership, the firm has been able to build upon Ontario’s e-health initiatives and bring patient/doctor interaction to the next level. All levels of government in Canada need to start investing taxpayers’ dollars with innovative firms such as HQIC to improve service delivery for our citizens.
Canada also needs innovative thinking. Technology is the backbone behind the processes of practically every industry. From banking, to entertainment and to the automotive sectors; technology plays a vital role in business. Thus, Canada should consider reforming the Unemployment Insurance system to better fund start up technology firms. This would give unemployed individuals time to develop a go to market strategy and develop new innovations while not having to worry about paying for basic expenses such as rent and food. Additionally, it would be refreshing to see more not-for-profits and social agencies develop a technology training practice that prepares those who are looking to enter the field. There are enough IT companies in Canada on the Branham300 who would participate in these initiatives with the not-for-profit sector.
However, it is not only government and big businesses in Canada who need to take steps to address the technology innovation gap. Canadian Firms themselves must apply innovative business strategies. In particular, more Canadian Firms need to export their services to both established and emerging markets. For example, the aging populations in Japan and Korea represent an opportunity for Canada Health IT firms. As well, this also represents opportunity for Canadian based long term care facilities. A long term care facility, that invests in technology at home, can bring the message of access to patient records to an international market. Canada has signed a record number of trade agreement and accords. It is time to see more Canadian firms take advantage of this and start to export their products & services around the world.
As citizens, taxpayers and customers who utilize services across an array of industries - the Black Community must be engaged in finding solutions to bridging this gap. The technology innovation gap in Canada may well be our greatest economic threat.