2 min read

Lack of knowledge to blame for Canadian productivity gap

ITAC and other industry experts say a lack of knowledge is why technology is being underutilized by small businesses

A recent Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) panel discussion held in Toronto last week revealed that there’s a gap in labour productivity in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry between Canada and the U.S.

Bernard Courtois, president and CEO at ITAC, said there’s a productivity gap between Canada and the U.S. by 20 per cent.

“We’re a country that generates a lot of innovation but we have a problem in using technology in mid-size and smaller businesses,” Courtois said. “Groups have been trying to address this issue for many years due to an under investment of machinery and equipment in the ICT industry in general.”

Courtois said there’s no “silver bullet” to solving this problem because it’s such a common and widespread issue.

“Generally, if you’re a smaller business, you don’t know all the things you can do with technology in order to grow your company faster and be more productive,” Courtois said. “We have to have a national dialogue to keep focusing on this. Getting the word out about technology is key.”

Businesses who are of a similar size to one another who share experiences with technology that worked for them are likely to succeed the most as they keep open lines of communication, Courtois said.

Andrew Sharpe, executive director at the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, a non-profit organization that aims to contribute (thru research) to a better understanding of trends around productivity, living standards and economic and social well-being, said vertical markets in the ICT industry all vary in the amount of monetary spend per worker.

“The financial industry for example spends about $7000 per worker per year in ICT and in healthcare, it’s less than $500 per worker per year for ICT,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe said that although it’s realized, there’s no definitive explanation for why there’s this gap between countries.

Doug Cooper, Intel Canada’s country manager, was a guest speaker at the event and said the company is hoping to address this issue by shining a light on industry best practices that are making companies successful.

Paul Cooper, country manager at Dell Canada, referred to the world that we live in today as the virtual era. Here, he said there’s a convergence of technology with devices like smartphones, PCs, notebooks and tablets.

“Consumers seem more willing to take risk and experiment with new technologies than businesses are,” Paul Cooper said. “The biggest and most important thing is knowledge. Having a dialogue is important and the channel plays a large role in the transfer of knowledge.”

Similarly, Doug Cooper said partners play a role in helping customers understand where the costs and inefficiencies are in their organizations.

“Chances are, these small businesses got into business because of a passion,” Doug Cooper said. “They didn’t get into the business to figure out how specific technologies work inside their organization. Partners need to address how businesses can be more efficient and communicate to their customers on the importance around doing things regular refreshes. Be smart about where the fundamental best practices are and help small businesses understand them. They don’t want cool technology. They want something that fixes a problem or addresses a business issue.”

Follow Maxine Cheung on Twitter: @MaxineCheungCDN.