Mark Goldberg

The Canadian Telecom Summit

Fox Group Dispatch

The digital economy is the economy

Earlier today, at IIC in Ottawa, ISED Minister Navdeep Bains said “the digital economy is the economy.”

There is not a single industry that digital technologies don’t touch anymore. Digital technologies underpin every sector, from fishing and farming to mining and health. That means the number of jobs requiring people with digital skills will continue to grow. Canada must do more to give people the skills and experience they need to compete in a global and digital world. In particular, we need to give every Canadian the opportunity to get online. No one should be left behind.

To succeed, Minister Bains emphasized the need for government and the private sector to make smart investments in:

  • People: Expand work-integrated learning programs, such as internships, apprenticeships and continuous learning opportunities, for Canadians at every stage of their careers—from new graduates up to the highest-ranking executives.
  • Technology: Set big-horizon goals and create broad-based partnerships to fund ambitious research projects that solve complex, large-scale problems and spark commercial opportunities for the private sector.
  • Companies: Leverage the buying power of government, as the single-largest purchaser of goods and services, to support the growth of innovative companies that have the potential to be globally competitive.

He is right. And as we move forward, there are some important lessons that we can learn from global leaders in transformation, such as David Bray.

Dr. David Bray is CIO of the Federal Communications Commission who transformed more than 200 of the FCC’s legacy information systems to award-winning technology in less than two years. His biography is worth a look.

David began working for the U.S. government at age 15 on computer simulations at a Department of Energy facility. In later roles he designed new telemedicine interfaces and space-based forest fire forecasting prototypes for the Department of Defense. From 1998-2000 he volunteered as an occasional crew lead with Habitat for Humanity International in the Philippines, Honduras, Romania, and Nepal while also working as a project manager with Yahoo! and a Microsoft partner firm. He then joined as IT Chief for the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leading the program’s technology response during 9/11, anthrax in 2001, Severe Acute Respiratory System in 2003, and other international public health emergencies. He later completed a PhD in Information Systems from Emory University and two post-doctoral associateships at MIT and Harvard in 2008.

David volunteered in 2009 to deploy to Afghanistan to help “think differently” on military and humanitarian issues and in 2010 became a Senior National Intelligence Service Executive advocating for increased information interoperability, cybersecurity, and protection of civil liberties. In 2012, Dr. Bray became the Executive Director for the bipartisan National Commission for Review of Research and Development Programs of the United States Intelligence Community, later receiving the National Intelligence Exceptional Achievement Medal. He received both the Arthur S. Flemming Award and Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership in 2013. He also was chosen to be an Eisenhower Fellow to meet with leaders in Taiwan and Australia on multisector cyber strategies for the “Internet of Everything” in 2015.

Outside of work, David was selected to serve as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and as a Visiting Associate for the Cybersecurity Working Group on Culture at the University of Oxford starting in 2014. He also has been named the “Most Social CIO” globally in 2015 by both Forbes Magazine and the Huffington-Post, tweeting as @fcc_cio.

Frequently, David writes thoughtful pieces about digital transformation issues, such as the Internet of Everything (IoE) and Artificial Intelligence.

He writes about the need for deeper, focused substance versus the too typical reach for the quick shiny prize.

In particular, a lot of this would include rethinking beyond how we use technology tools — we need to rethink how we do the work to improve the stakeholder experience.Most importantly, we need focus on those meaningful elements of public service that need to be done to improve the United States and the world, and also focus on either automating or ending the less meaningful and often rote elements of public service that may no longer be necessary.

While startups often create a place where experiments and new ways of working can be done, several parts of public service cannot fail — which means we will need to identify a systematic, substantive approach that identifies:

  1. What parts of public service absolutely, positively must run-on-time and not fail; i.e., crucial parts of defense, the economy, etc.
  2. What parts of public service are most likely to produce significant “returns on investment” if new, better ways of doing the business of public service were found at the local, state, or national levels, and thus might be best for in-situ experiments including AI and new ways of working?
  3. What parts of public service are rote or less meaningful in today’s rapidly changing world, and thus might be best decreased, completely automated, or stopped?

He also writes about needing “better solutions to help empower individuals to make contextual choices about their privacy and what data they want to provide in return for “free” apps or other services.” He suggests interesting models for open source privacy services, “empowering consumers to decide when, where, and in what context their data should be shared with data requestors.”

He proposes open “Health of the Internet” reports:

Such a report could be akin to how the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides regular updates regarding the start, spread, and conclusion of the flu season each year. The CDC’s reports are anonymized, aggregated statistics. A cyber public health approach could protect privacy and improve IoE resiliency by publicly sharing the equivalent of anonymous cyber signs, symptoms, and behaviors that different IoE devices are experiencing on a regular basis.

David Bray will be speaking at The 2017 Canadian Telecom Summit, taking place June 5-7 in Toronto. He has important messages for CIOs in the public and private sectors as well as all of us concerned with technology policy. You should plan to be join us. Registrations are now open.

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