Bringing Technology, Government and Business Together for Canada’s Prosperity

By Heather Romito

If there’s one thing that 2020 has reinforced, it’s the importance of the technology sector to the country’s economy. Recognizing this well before the pandemic, TECHNATION, a membership-driven, not-for-profit association, has made it their mission to shine a spotlight on and support the growth of Canada’s technology sector.

Making Canada a tech leader

Actually, Angela Mondou, TECHNATION’S President and Chief Executive Officer, doesn’t want Canada’s technology sector to merely grow and thrive; she wants it to become a world leader.

“This is a huge focus for an association like ours, to enable and accelerate technology adoption both in government and in business. If we can do that, obviously our members benefit as the innovators selling the technology, but our country benefits. Right now, the World Economic Forum has Canada in 34th place in the world as a technology adopter. It’s not good for the economy or the nation’s prosperity. We have lost a lot of ground as a leader in global technology.”

To assist in this hefty endeavour, the Association leverages three sizable boards – a National Board of Directors, an Ontario Board of Directors and a Health Board of Directors. Each board has representation from some of the largest tech companies in the world, including Microsoft, Google and Telus as well as smaller, homegrown Canadian technology companies. Per Mondou, “It’s a big board and that’s because we represent a very diverse, rapidly growing – the most powerfully growing – sector in industry.”

New leadership brings new priorities

Operating for more than 60 years, the organization formerly known as the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) has undergone a major facelift under Mondou’s leadership. TECHNATION has been working hard to revitalize their brand and service approach by creating programs that target accelerated technology adoption for government and businesses alike, including the newly formed Tech4Canada Council. Tech4Canada sees multi-sector delegates come together to discuss critical technology challenges, impacts and emerging best practices with a mandate to drive action. The Council recently produced a COVID Call to Action that delves into the topics of data sharing and supply chain issues.

In addition to its powerhouse boards and innovative programming, TECHNATION helps to move Canada’s technology adoption needle by pushing the federal and provincial governments to update their procurement strategy to be more accessible and inclusive for smaller technology companies as well as encouraging government to ‘buy technology’ rather than build their technologies in-house.

A cornerstone of this particular advocacy effort meant forging a stronger relationship with Shared Services Canada, a large federal arm that oversees government procurement activities. When Angela Mondou first began her tenure with TECHNATION less than two yeas ago, Shared Services Canada wasn’t entirely convinced that the Association could offer a great deal of value to government procurement practices. But things have certainly turned around.

Partnering with Shared Services Canada

One of the joint initiatives between TECHNATION and Shared Services Canada is the Agile Procurement Program – a true collaboration between the federal government and TECHNATION that facilitates agile and flexible government procurement through challenge-based technology solicitations and enables Tech Sector engagement in the process. The Association recently received an additional $32 million in funding for the Career Ready wage subsidy program that encourages businesses to hire a co-op student for a work-term placement in a tech-based role. The Career Ready Program subsidizes up to 50 per cent of a student’s pay, to a maximum of $7,500, with additional funding for tech hires from underrepresented groups.

Mondou explains, “It is mission-critical to be able to meet the present and future talent needs of the Canadian technology sector. The government has been really forward-thinking in terms of preparation and readiness, getting students familiar with technology and the variety of tech roles that are out there. This kind of program also helps the companies in preparing for the technology skills they can rehire when many of these students have graduated.”

Focusing on small and medium tech companies

TECHNATION has a strong focus on driving this technology adoption for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which make up the bulk of our gross domestic product in Canada. Throughout the pandemic, small and medium tech companies have faced significant challenges with business slowdowns and reduced workforces.

With its mission front of mind, TECHNATION quickly launched an online portal to help bridge the gap between rapidly evolving government and business technology needs and tech start-ups and SMEs with solutions to offer. Described as a “one-stop shop”, ‘CANADA’S DIGITAL MARKETPLACE powered by TECHNATION’ allows Canadian technology companies to showcase their solutions and services to interested private and public sector purchasers.

The Digital Marketplace represents another successful collaboration with Shared Services Canada and a great source of pride for TECHNATION in terms of shining that spotlight on the tech sector. “COVID has been a big tech disruptor. It has accelerated adoption. It has accelerated history. Because that’s how rapidly governments and companies have moved towards getting technology in place. It’s been pretty powerful and impressive, and it really highlighted how important technology is to the economy. Those that did not have it, in many cases, were not able to pivot their business model,” says Mondou.

TECHNATION’S advocacy efforts have been incredibly valuable to Canada’s technology sector, and it’s clear that the Association has also proven its value to the government and become a trusted technology advisor. In fact, the Ontario government saw fit to appoint Mondou to the Ministers’ COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force. Chaired by General Rick Hillier, former Chief of Defence Staff for the Canadian Forces, the ten-person Task Force will “support the safe and effective implementation of Ontario’s largest immunization program in a century,” according to the December 4, 2020 press release from the provincial government.

With TECHNATION serving as the voice for Canada’s technology industry and Angela Mondou (also a former military officer) serving on Ontario’s COVID vaccine task force, it seems the country’s prosperity is in good hands.