In 2019, climate change, unease about the future global economy, and trade uncertainties dominated the world scene. Digital trade, by contrast, continued to grow as cross-border data and communication flow increased, raising policy questions on IP rights, privacy, and security that will no doubt be the subject of increased debate in the coming years.
Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deep learning also made great strides last year, enabling many real-life applications that spanned a multitude of sectors from: enhanced analysis of soil nutrients in smart agriculture; enhanced financial risks management in banking; to fast-tracking of clinical trials that markedly improved the economics and timeliness of medical drug discoveries. Additionally, the global race for 5G wireless deployment and its confluence with IoT and Blockchain technologies marked a new era of smart and sustainable city development: a crucial setting for attracting investments and jobs.
Here in Canada, despite rising household debt, continued downward pressure on the resource and energy sector, and limited FDI attraction in the digital space, the Information Technology Index boasted a record high growth on the stock markets in 2019. The index jumped 8.6% in November and up 160 % over the past five years, signalling a larger industrial shift towards innovation-laden sectors. ICTC’s recent labour market report “Digital Talent Outlook 2023”echoes this trend and points to a healthy demand for skilled digital workers of around 305,000 by 2023. This vibrant digital-based economy is poised to reshape the industrial fabric of our economy in the coming years while advancing Canada’s competitiveness on the global stage. Student work placements programs like ICTC’s WIL Digital, upskilling and transitioning of displaced workers to in-demand jobs such as the Calgary Economic Development (CED) Edge Up program, as well targeted youth programs like ICTC’s Digital Dash 2.0 for middle and secondary schools go a long way in preparing the talent for tomorrow’s economy.
In 2019, ICTC continued to inspire a forward-looking digital agenda for Canada by delivering pioneering research, evidence-based policy advice, and creative capacity building programs. We participated in a variety of wide-ranging forums and speaking engagements at over 30 leading national and international events. We also designed and delivered on key talent programs that included the CyberTitan youth cybersecurity education and competition initiative targeting middle and secondary school students, the GO Talent program that connects international ICT talent with Canadian businesses, The Women in Technology initiative, the Ontario Career Connect wage subsidy program that enables young graduates to earn on-the-job experience and potential full-time employment. We also launched the iAdvance initiative that paves the way for the future of work through skills mapping, enabling training pathways, and micro-credentialing.
On the research and policy front, we significantly intensified our reach by tackling important themes relevant to the growing digital economy that included key publications, among them: Canada’s Blockchain Ecosystem, A digital Future for Alberta, Transformative Technologies for Smart Canadian Cities, Smart Cities Priorities & Labour Readiness, Developing Cyber Talent for Canadian Road Authorities, and MVNOs-The Next Wave of Telecommunication Services, among many other economic, policy briefs, and blogs.
Last year also marked a period of rapid organizational growth for ICTC that expanded our partnerships, regional presence, and talent capacity representing now over 70 employees across Canada.
In 2020, ICTC will continue to focus on strategic matters of significant interest and impacts to Canada’s digital economy and society. To set the stage for defining Canada’s goals for the next decade, ICTC has recently partnered with IT World Canada (ITWC) to shape a national and critical discourse on Canada’s Aspirations for a Competitive 2030 Digital Based Economy.
I would like to conclude by extending a special thank you to all our partners and stakeholders for their valuable support and trust in our mandate, to the Board members for their insights and guidance, and to our very talented staff for their remarkable creativity and passion in advancing important goals for Canada.
I wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year.
President & CEO