OTTAWA — A better relationship with small and medium size businesses with more collaboration is key to advancing the booming e-economy, IT industry executives told on a conference panel on Monday.

Microsoft Canada president Frank

Clegg joined IBM Canada president Ed Kilroy, HP Canada president Paul Tsaparis, TD Canada Trust senior vice-president Chuck Hounsell and Cisco Canada president Terry Walsh in discussing strategies involving the evolving e-economy and how it has changed the business world and its impact on growth.

Chaired by lawyer John Manley, the former Canadian Minister of Finance and Industry, the main conclusion was that small and medium-sized enterprises must be more included in the forward planning of the growing e-economy.

“”We need to focus on small and medium-sized business and we need to a better job at exploring what the solutions are and then we must implement them,”” Clegg told in an exclusive interview following the two-hour morning discussion in front of 200 people.

He added that the key players, including government, understand the need, but much more cooperation needs to occur between all sectors, including large and small companies.

Clegg’s comments echoed those of a report released last week by the Canadian e-Business Initiative, which urged the government to foster more links between SMEs in order to accelerate the adoption of Internet-based products and services.

In terms of e-health, Tsaparis said that industry has a role to play, but there is room for all levels of government to work towards serving the population. He pointed to Capital Health in Edmonton — a national, non-profit, Web-based health information service that uses a network of health information providers to inform people — as an example of a collaboration that is working well and can be sponsored.

Kilroy said the private sector will always steer towards where the business opportunities exist, and won’t waste time mucking around elsewhere. That’s why, he said, IBM is investing in Alberta.

“”We can only swim upstream so long in discussions. We are always going to go where the decisions are made,”” he said, using Alberta as an example. IBM has set up an innovation centre in the province.

The panel also focused on the role of government in the e-economy. Hounsell said it’s important for government to stimulate an environment where people are not penalized by taxation. The idea of removing the barriers to starting new businesses was also floated around in the question and answer period. Walsh added that the bulk of the work currently being done is by the private sector and stressed that the government needs to give incentives to business by setting the goals for industry.

Kilroy said that over the last 10 years, the time gap for getting research transferred to the private sector has shrunk by 70 per cent and it’s a booming sector to explore.

“”That’s all because of collaboration,”” he said, suggesting a better relationship between academia, business and technology as a key in moving the e-economy forward.

Near the end of the discussion, e-mail spam and the millions of dollars it costs industry each year was raised as a concern for moving the e-economy forward. An audience member was curious if government should get involved in regulating it.

“”As the MSN and Hotmail guy,”” Clegg responded, “”(I think) government shouldn’t step in. They should let industry sort it out. We all need to step up as an industry and get our act together.””

“”Government should challenge us, but not push to hard,”” he added.

The e-commerce to e-economy: Strategies for the 21st Century conference continues Thursday at the Brookstreet Hotel in Ottawa’s West End with another panel discussion on the infrastructure for the e-economy.


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