A recent poll found that firms’ capacity to adopt new technology is being hampered by a lack of finance and competent labour. 40% of respondents to a Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters survey said they haven’t started or are just starting a digital transformation. A third of those polled saw a lack of competent people as a significant barrier to using new technology.
One-quarter of respondents have not yet implemented any of the nine “software solutions” highlighted in the poll, such as those relating to warehouse management and equipment effectiveness, which helps to explain the current labour crisis. Another 10% have avoided “advanced technologies” including cloud computing and cybersecurity.
Since 93% of the country’s 52,000 manufacturers employ fewer than 100 workers, the situation is particularly acute for smaller businesses, which Alan Arcand, the trade group’s senior economist, calls a “major problem.”
What is all the fuss about?
Digital transformation has become a global phenomenon, shaping the way businesses operate and thrive in the modern era. While many developed countries are embracing this shift, Canada faces certain challenges that have resulted in it lagging behind some of its counterparts. In this article, we explore the digital transformation of businesses in Canada, identify key factors contributing to its slower progress, and discuss strategies to bridge the gap with other developed nations.
Infrastructure and Connectivity
One significant factor influencing Canada’s digital transformation is its vast geographic landscape and dispersed population. The country’s size and varied terrain make it challenging to provide comprehensive high-speed internet connectivity, particularly in rural and remote areas. Limited access to reliable and affordable internet infrastructure can hinder businesses’ ability to fully leverage digital technologies.
Investment in Technology
Compared to some other developed countries, Canada has been relatively slower in terms of investment in technology and digital innovation. Insufficient funding for research and development, as well as lower levels of private investment in technology, have impacted the pace of digital transformation. Increased investment in technology infrastructure, innovation hubs, and start-ups is crucial to driving the adoption of digital solutions.
Digital Skills Gap
Canada faces a shortage of digital skills and talent required to drive digital transformation. While there are highly skilled professionals in the country, the demand for individuals proficient in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, and cybersecurity often outpaces the supply. Bridging the digital skills gap through education and training initiatives is essential to accelerate digital transformation. Now this is a two way sword! Companies expect to have skilled techs on press of a button, well that doesn’t happen. At least not in this sector of technology! While Canada and Canadian businesses relied on immigration to fill in the manufacturing sector as “cheap” labour, technology and skilled labour sector has proven to be different. Highly skilled immigrants that are profound in AI and future technologies very seldomly knock on the door. Expansive high education and low pay in manufacturing and research and development has discouraged young adults to persuade this path. Canadian wages went only up by 50% in the last 20 years while housing market went up by 600%! That is one of the reasons as well why many talented and well educated people left the manufacturing and technology sector in Canada and became Realtors over night!
Cultural Mindset and Risk Aversion
Cultural factors and risk aversion can also contribute to the slower pace of digital transformation in Canada. Some businesses may be hesitant to adopt new technologies due to concerns about security, privacy, and potential disruptions to traditional business models. Encouraging a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and risk-taking can help overcome these barriers and foster a mindset that embraces digital transformation.
Closing the Gap
To bridge the gap and accelerate the digital transformation of businesses in Canada, several strategies can be implemented:
- Infrastructure Investment: Increase investment in digital infrastructure, including expanding broadband internet access to underserved areas and investing in advanced telecommunications networks.
- Skills Development: Enhance educational programs and initiatives that focus on digital skills, fostering a future-ready workforce equipped with the necessary knowledge to drive digital transformation.
- Government Support: Provide incentives, grants, and favourable policies to encourage businesses to adopt digital technologies, while ensuring a balance between innovation and regulatory compliance. As well housing investment that drives home value prices should be regulated in order to make houses for living instead for investment and making money.
- Collaboration and Partnerships: Foster collaboration between government, industry, and academia to drive research and development, innovation, and knowledge sharing.
- Digital Literacy Initiatives: Promote digital literacy programs for businesses and individuals to enhance understanding and adoption of digital technologies.
While Canada may be behind some developed countries in terms of digital transformation, there is ample opportunity for growth and catch-up. By addressing challenges related to infrastructure, investment, skills development, regulations, and cultural mindset, Canada can create an environment conducive to digital innovation. Embracing digital transformation will enable Canadian businesses to remain competitive, drive economic growth, and position the country as a global leader in the digital age.