:00:31:Can you describe what triggered your interest in technology and business?"....It was really thrilling to see somebody who was actually trying to understand the broader applications of technology for the marketplace. It kind of triangulated - social issue, business issues, technology issues - to try to figure out what was really going on...."
:02:10:In your roles with Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) and Information & Communications Technology Council (ICTC), what do you hope to accomplish?"....Even though there is that disproportionate contribution to GDP, we're under investing (compared with the US) to the tune of about 50% - so that makes us [Canada] less competitive. Another thing that is happening is that a lot of people think IT is a field that in some ways is in decline. But in fact it is growing and the demand for ICTs is growing in Canada. Companies are realizing that they need to invest in this area in order to be more competitive and for a number of other reasons as well. We are facing a crisis in the labour market where we have all the old fogies like me retiring or on the eve of retirement. At the other end of the labour market we have declining enrollments and people not entering the field....So those are my interests, both in ITAC and in ICTC...."
:05:15:A lot of people seem to be worried about the IT labour market. Some say the jobs are disappearing due to offshoring. Others, that we face a shortage of workers. What's really going on? "....Both of those things are happening....Even though we are moving jobs offshore, demand is growing and it's growing firstly because we have underinvested for a very long time in this area. And secondly because companies are using IT in ever more areas of the business and it's becoming pervasive in every aspect in our lives...There's a myth out there that this offshoring is creating a decline in jobs - that is absolutely not the case. What is happening is that the kinds of people that we need are changing...."
:07:58:What are the underlying factors behind these changes? How are the jobs of tomorrow going to change, and why?"....I think there is a lot of mythology out there about this issue. A lot of people think that the reason that the kids are not enrolling is because of the dot com crash five years ago so people think that this is a field that is in decline. Or the offshoring phenomenon where people say why should I go into a field where I might not actually be able to get a job. That may be a bit of a factor but I don't think it's the central factor....Look at the data that does exist out there and what you find is there's a certain perception among young people that IT is not the greatest career choice compared with other fields....We need to look at ourselves as an industry or as a field and ask the hard nosed question - what is the ROI on going into the field of information technology as compared with some of the other options...."
:20:07:Why are enrollments dropping? "....I think that the main issue is that kids don't think that they want to go into this field. They don't want to be perceived or have the experience of being nerds who are stuck in front of a computer screen for the rest of their lives....even though that is actually not the future of these jobs...."
:24:58:There's a big gender issue here too - what's your take on that?"....Women have been grossly under represented in terms of their percentage of the workforce in this field and it has never really gotten any better. We've stood at around the 25% mark of women in IT for as long back as people can remember....But actually what is happening, as enrollments are declining across Canada (and in all industrialized countries) of men in post-secondary programs, we are seeing a commensurate declining enrollment of women....What that says is that there is a broader set of issues here that effect both women and men and there are some specific gender issues that affect women...."
:28:40:How does the value proposition of an IT career rate in comparison to the other career options that are available to young people? "....Historically it hasn't been that great....Look at IT companies....Hardly any IT companies or telecom companies have a CEO whose principle credentials are IT credentials....We've got to fix that if we are going to make this an attractive field...."
:32:00:Can immigration solve this problem? "....We have not been able to tackle immigration effectively to fill this gap....There are probably two primary reasons. One is that we are not very good at recognizing the credentials of internationally educated professionals....Secondly our immigration systems has not been focused on this challenge and we have not been focused on getting the type of people with the market skills that we require...."
:35:53:What about retraining of IT workers? Of laid off manufacturing workers?"....Immigration is a part of the solution but it's not going to get us there. At the end of the day we need a way to solve the enrollment problem and also to retrain people. Retraining is one way to tackle this, both in terms of taking business people and giving them the IT skills that they need, but also we should be looking at what's happening with the automotive industry or the manufacturing industry in general...."
:41:40:Who are the key players who need to fix this problem, and what should they be doing about it? Are we seeing any signs of progress right now?"....All the organizations that I've talked to are trying to get the real players mobilized to take action....We need to change the way that we manage people's careers in IT, we need to change the way we educate people to prepare for this field....We need to get a lot better at communicating those choices and educating people about them....We need to get the influencers understanding this and not just the kids themselves...."
:47:05:What are the most important broader business challenges and solutions?"....This kind of disaggregation of control that information communications technologies have wrought on markets is part of what is driving the current economic crisis that we see in the world....What we are seeing are two levels of disaggregation that are happening now because of the power of information technology. On one hand, historically a lot of relationships were managed hierarchically through fairly controlled ways of doing things.... And the other thing that's happening is that we are seeing increasingly a shift away from pre-designed, pre-packaged and pre-specified solutions, toward emergent solutions where the participants in the network are the ones who are designing the solutions, the outcomes, almost 'on the fly'...."
:51:48:Would you say that this ties in with what you see as your predictions of major trends and their opportunities? "....The opportunities are finding new ways and more creative ways to manage against these problems....There are big opportunities for any country that can build a new kind of economy that is more energy efficient and creates new kinds of technologies that can facilitate energy efficiency because there will be a huge global demand for those kinds of solutions...."
:52:36:Which are your top recommended resources and why?"....I pay close attention to both web-based resources like Tech Crunch....I have a set of blogs that I track through Google Reader....I also pay close attention to the major media, not so much the technology media as the business media, how they are tracking technology - Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Economist....I also still read books.... "
:55:32:Do you have any closing comments you would like to make? "....Anybody who's alive today should consider themselves to be very privileged. On one hand, it is kind of a crucial moment in terms of the history of our planet because of the huge global issues that I talked about earlier. But on the other hand, it is a period of tremendous innovation and learning....We are in a period of exponential growth in human knowledge so it's a wonderful time to be alive...."