When I think of Alberta, it’s as more than just the land I call home – but the place that nurtured and helped me, my family and my company grow. As a mother, I’ve always loved the saying that it ‘takes a village to raise a child’, and similarly, as a life-long entrepreneur I can tell you that it takes an ecosystem to raise a company. Regardless of our struggling economy, the incredibly strong sense of community we have here is what makes it such a great place to do both.
My children go to school here, participate in community programs, and like all Albertans, benefit from the support of our health care and other systems. My clean technology company, Absolute Combustion, thrives because of the incredible network of innovation organizations, funders like Alberta Innovates, and strong ecosystems for developing and commercializing our early-stage technologies.
This province is the village that sustains all of us on both a personal and economic level. And in return, it needs us to support its growth with smart strategies, investments and the other ways we can help move it in the right direction. With the strains on our economy and massive challenges to our resource industry’s international competitiveness, our village needs our support more than ever.
”“It’s not a faith in technology. It’s a faith in people.”Steve Jobs
Technology is the best way we can support our province, so it can keep supporting us. All around us, other areas of the world are benefiting from the efficiencies, optimization and cost savings that come with digital adoption. And this is an area where Alberta has a huge advantage – countless innovative, successful technology companies developing game-changing products that can help our businesses grow and our industries thrive.
At the Alberta Blockchain Consortium (ABC), we focus on the business benefits of blockchain technologies for both our traditional and emerging sectors – it’s a foundational data solution that applies across all our main industries and lays the groundwork for other digital innovations like Machine Learning and IoT. By automating corporate processes to reduce transaction costs and times, cut administrative paperwork and improve communication between counterparties, blockchain applications have the power to streamline all aspects of how Alberta does business.
Beyond business, blockchain technologies have promise to solve some of the biggest issues with the way our government functions. High levels of bureaucracy and a lack of communication between departments leads to red tape, bloated costs and disorganization that make services harder for people to access. Our health care system is a prime example of an area of government where inefficiencies can not only add huge costs, but potentially risk the safety of our citizens.
There are so many areas that can benefit from Alberta embracing new technologies. With a solid foundation of organized, transparent and easily shared data, it sets business up for optimal use of other digital technologies like Machine Learning, which can help our companies make better use of their valuable information and use it to predict trends, distribute company resources and get to know their customers and markets better.
”We know that, when it comes to technology and the economy, if you’re not constantly moving forward, then – without a doubt – you’re moving backwards.Bill OwensAmerican photographer
IoT applications create a vast, automated data collection system that can remove the need for human oversight and maintenance, reducing the risk of errors and lowering operational costs for companies. Robotics, cybersecurity, agricultural innovations, and emissions reductions technologies are all other areas where we’re lucky to have entrepreneurs taking risks to get their products into the market.
As the CEO of Absolute Combustion, a clean technology company pioneering a new combustion system for industrial heating and waste disposal in energy, aviation and other sectors, I have an up-close picture of just how big the personal risks are that our entrepreneurs are taking. Our technology community has made it our missions to advance Alberta towards a better future – and in return, we need our industries and government to be open to embracing new solutions.
I think most people agree that supporting the growth of our technology ecosystem is the right thing to do for our economy, especially in the long term – but it comes with a risk. Innovation is expensive, and the large amounts of public funding required to build ecosystems and foster the early stages of new industries isn’t a guaranteed investment. But increasing challenges for our entrepreneurs in accessing private investment and other sources of capital means that for us to move forward, public support is critical.
This starts with education. According to many recent reports, including a 2019 study from the Brookings Institute, by all measurements Canada is much slower than other Western nations when it comes to digital adoption. This is why raising awareness is such a primary mandate of the ABC – without a solid public and industry understanding of what new technologies can do for our economy and lives, the urgency with which we need to move forward simply won’t register as a priority.
And if technology isn’t a priority, where will that leave us? Unfortunately, far behind the rest of the world. It’s increasingly obvious that Canada is missing the boat on a large-scale transformation that is not only incredibly beneficial, but an inevitable part of the future of our global economy.
”Everybody has to be able to participate in a future that they want to live for. That’s what technology can do.Dean KamenAmerican engineer
The good news is that the village that sustains us has everything we need to make the transition to a better economy. Despite our challenges, I strongly believe we as a province need to have faith – looking at the history of Alberta and the different ways our economy has evolved and prospered, there’s no doubt we have the talent, drive and resources to successfully make another leap. It’s not a transformation that will replace our essential industries but will one that will only make them and our economy stronger.
That’s why support for growth technologies – especially through education – is essential to move each of our province’s key sectors ahead, with the incredible added benefits of improving the lives of all Albertans, creating new export markets and a building a global reputation for our Alberta-built innovations. Let’s make sure we keep the momentum going – our future depends on it.