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Canada’s Digital Future

Canada’s Digital Future

This article was co-written by​ Sylvia Kingsmill, Partner and National Lead, Digital Privacy and Information Management, and Armughan Ahmad, Canadian Managing Partner, Digital and Technology Solutions, KPMG in Canada

Canada's digital ambitions are gaining speed, but there is ground to be gained to match – if not lead – our global peers. This is why KPMG is proud to be counted among the organizations consulted by The Honourable Navdeep Singh Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, to help define the country's digital objectives and set a roadmap for transformation.

Part of our consultations required taking a critical lens to Canada's digital maturity, the steps it has taken to become a more digital nation, and the trends and challenges that will define its next steps. To do this, we have enlisted subject matter experts from across KPMG's network to examine core issues, trends, and strategies that will ultimately shape our future digital state.

There are five superpowers of technology driving the revolution of digital economies: cloud, data, AI, mobility, and Internet of Things. Canada needs to decide how it wants to be part of that revolution and how it is participating in the advancement and adaptation of these disruptions.

Armughan Ahmad, Canadian Managing Partner, Digital and Technology Solutions, KPMG in Canada

There are challenges along the way. Despite Canada's success in seeding innovation hubs across the country, and our globally-recognized successes in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and advanced data tools, we continue to lag on the world stage. We have been slower to commercialize innovation; foster an adequate supply of sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent; and raise levels of awareness and interest for innovative new resources and processes among the Canadian people. Moreover, our vast geography makes it a challenge to ensure equal access to fast, reliable, and affordable high-speed internet for all; while international competition makes it equally difficult to keep our tech and innovation leaders from pursuing opportunities outside our borders.

These are all worthy obstacles, but they are far from insurmountable. To rise to our potential, we must:

  • Own the podium: In a sea of global giants, we need to think bigger. Canada should refocus a percentage of federal growth-oriented programs to support high-performing scale-ups – both to promote subject matter expert (SME) growth and build a community of digital anchor firms. We must also take better advantage of the ground-breaking research coming from our colleges and universities, ensuring that our academic perspectives and findings are getting their due attention and global recognition.
  • Secure the talent: Despite advances in robotics, AI, and automation, human talent remains integral to the growth and ongoing health of Canada's digital strategies. Cultivating STEM talent requires re-thinking education curriculums, forging new paths to STEM careers, expanding our global skills strategy, exploring new ways to entice international talent, and encouraging innovation through initiatives like a Digital Skills and Talent Collaboration Hub.
  • Lead by example: To inspire digital transformation, the Canadian government must practice what it promotes. Our leaders need to think digitally in terms of how the government interacts with its people, how it transacts, and how it leverages technology to provide more efficient, connected, and reliable public services across the nation.
  • Promote outcomes–based regulation: Canada's tech start-ups need to be able to grow and innovate at the speed of their competitors around the world. The government must do its part by overseeing the industry in a way that allows for experimentation, flexibility, and adaptation. Otherwise, lining their path with red tape and time-consuming processes will cap their ability to maneuver in a fast-moving digital world, one where AI is gaining traction and requires agility for market adoption.
  • Support a digital society: That occurs through investing more in digital technologies (Canada currently spends 2.2 percent of its nominal gross domestic product (GDP) towards digital technologies, less than the 2.7 percent OECD average); prioritizing and accelerating universal, equal, and affordable connectivity; encouraging digital technology adoption by businesses; and executing multi-faceted promotional campaigns.
  • Leverage intellectual property (IP) and promote the value of data: We must ensure that Canadian companies and creators can monetize and protect their data and IP. We can do so by updating data protection laws and both national and international standards on AI and ethical use of automated decision systems, creating a national, industry-led advisory council; investing in the application of AI and a data-driven economy; creating large and open data libraries; and embedding Canada's IP strategy into government funding programs.

Like any worthwhile journey, one rarely goes the distance alone. That is why, in addition to the objectives above, KPMG has connected with our member firms to discuss how Canada can further harness the skills and lay the groundwork for the 'smart' cities, businesses, and governments of the future.

Read ahead for insights in our digital future.

Let's do this.