ITAC faces more turnover at the top

The Information Technology Association of Canada announced its second new president in less than a year Thursday following the departure of former Oracle Canada president Bill Bergen from the post.

ITAC’s board of directors said

it had appointed Bernard Courtois, an executive who had worked with Bell Canada in a variety of positions for more than 12 years, to lead the organization. Courtois was most recently Bell’s executive counsel, advising on strategic and public policy issues for the country’s largest telecommunications provider.

Last June ITAC held a media event to formally introduce Bergen as a replacement for Gaylen Duncan, who stepped down as president after seven years a few months earlier. ITAC did not give any reason for Bergen’s departure. In an interview with at the time he was appointed, however, Bergen admitted he didn’t necessarily fit the traditional ITAC mould.

“”I’m not really an association kind of guy,”” Bergen said. “”It’s not just about having meetings and then everyone goes home.”” spoke with Courtois about how long he plans to stay with ITAC, and how he can bring some stability to the organization’s leadership. When exactly did Bergen step down as president?

Bernard Courtois: He left a couple of months ago, and that created an opportunity that caused me to be appointed.

ITB: What interested you in the position?

BC: Well, I’ve been on the board of ITAC for a few years, and so I know the value of the organization. When the position came open, I put two and two together and realized I had a background that could be of particular use, and I have an organization that could be of great value, so for me it was a great match.

ITB: What specifically do you think you’ll bring to the position that will further ITAC’s goals?

BC: I have over 30 years in-depth experience in this industry, mostly from a strategic and a public policy standpoint. At the same time, we have an industry that is a world success, but we’re at a point of change in the government, in the state of our economy and the state of our industry. It’s an extraordinary time to match two things: the huge contribution that this industry can make to our prosperity, to addressing our national priorities of health care, security and more efficient government. We’ve got a capability that other countries would die for. We’ve also got a need to promote that so that a country as small as Canada can realize it’s part of our identity to be recognized as a world leader. To me, it could be a very exciting time both for me and for our industry.

ITB: What do you think will be your first priorities at ITAC?

BC: I think No. 1 will be putting the word out. People have tended to forget that technological progress is continuing in this industry and that it’s an advantage to make use of. It’s a driver of productivity. Just imagine the health system. We have a problem in many areas in public policy where even though we’ve faced our fiscal problems we simply don’t have enough money to give Canadians what they absolutely deserve and want. If the health system were run today like a 21st-century enterprise, it would cost 30 per cent less than it otherwise does, the service and accessibility would improve. When everybody’s talking about this dilemma that we’re in — that as the population ages, this is going to cost more than we have money to pay for and Canadians are very frustrated with how under-performing the system is now — the way to solving it is obvious. It’s not rocket science: enterprises do it already day to day.

I’ll give you an example of the company I just left, Bell Canada. It would grind to a halt today if it was run the way our health system is run. You can apply the same kind of thinking to our border problems, to our governments across the country that have tightened their belts. ICT is an extraordinary and necessary means of solving that. We need to talk that up, we need to realize that. We need the Canadian public to tell its politicians, “”We’re counting on you to make use of that capability, otherwise we can’t get there from here.””

ITB: Can we expect to see a closer relationship between ITAC and Bell Canada now that you’ve been appointed?

BC: Bell Canada was already a member and was on the board, so obviously we want to continue that relationship. We might attract more companies like Bell Canada, more competitors of Bell into the ITAC fold, but generally speaking we represent a pretty good cross-section already.

ITB: Last year we saw a number of IT industry associations merge or lose numbers. Is ITAC courting potential partners?

BC: I don’t know that I would say that we are looking for mergers, but we do have to address the fact that in today’s world our members, I think, will be less tolerant to pay for memberships in a multiplicity of organizations. We have a focus that is on the information and communications technology industries. Therefore if we deliver value to our members in that and make our focus clear, our members can have discussions with us about how we work with other groups and we can coordinate things so that they don’t end up dispersing their efforts and their resources and their spending.

ITB: You’re the second new president ITAC has had in less than a year. What kind of credibility challenge does ITAC face as you come on board?

BC: Any organization can fall on hard times when its top leadership changes, and that’s the instability factor. Definitely part of the thinking in appointing me was that we discussed the fact that I’m here for a period of years to get that out of the way.

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