ITAC issues call for innovation in next federal budget

Security spending may be a foremost concern for the next federal budget, but IT innovation should not take a back seat, according the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC).

ITAC, based in Toronto, issued a white paper Monday detailing its pro-innovation recommendations for the federal government. These include tax cuts, education spending for IT training, continued reduction in interest rates and investment in Canada’s broadband infrastructure.

“We believe that the government, over a multi-year period, can balance the needs for security with the needs for innovation,” said Gaylen Duncan, ITAC president. “We do not believe it’s an either-or. To say its either-or is to dumb down Canada.”

ITAC represents 1,300 of Canada’s technology companies, but Duncan says the organization’s technology spending stance is not just self-promotion. The rest of the economy will be buoyed if the government puts more resources into IT innovation, and if other sectors like fishing, agriculture and forestry invest in IT to improve their efficiency and productivity, he said.

“This is not IT for IT’s sake. That’s one of the most difficult things we’ve had to get across to politicians,” said Duncan. “I don’t say buy IT for the sake of growing IT, it just happens that growing the IT industry really helps the total economy.

“The faster we can get the rest of the economy to transform itself, the faster we’ll see those benefits throughout the entire economy.”

Governments across the world sat up took notice of the importance of heightened security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Finance Minister Paul Martin has told the Canadian Press he will deliver a federal budget in December due to the attacks and the weak Canadian economy. Innovation may play a strong role in the next budget, according to Martin, and the Bank of Canada has taken steps to boost the economy by cutting interest rates eight times this year.

According to Duncan, spending for innovation will likely make security measures cheaper in the long run, and it’s important for the nation to foster an entrepreneurial spirit to make innovation possible.

“You don’t close all your universities and send your guys to war. You keep the universities open,” he commented. Entrepreneurism should be a prime aspect to business and technology educations, and Canadian industry needs to be constantly reminded it’s competing in a global economy, he added.

“You’re not competing with the company down the street, you could be taken out by a company online somewhere else in the world. The more we get an understanding of that, the more the local company investment decisions will reflect those kinds of things.”

Earlier this month, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATAAlliance), another IT industry advocacy organization, delivered a similar report to ITAC’s. CATA offered suggestions to the federal government including tax cuts, restructured R&D spending programs and increased funding for post-secondary education.

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