9 thoughts on “Report on the ICT industry in NB

  1. Great report, now we’ll just have to wait for the arguments about why some of the numbers are down.

    I’ll start with the decline in the number of firms, especially in Fredericton. I think this was caused by the loss of Incutech / Enterprise UNB. It’s a shame that they didn’t continue on with it. PEI now has a similar incubation centre in Charlottetown, which is probably why they have more firms listed.

  2. Thank you for sharing this with us. A few questions:

    1) Would you say that the loss of NB Tel as an anchor company has had a negative impact on the sector?

    2) The break up of NB Tel sowed the seeds for many start up companies by the ex employees. Would the decline in the sector be amplified if not for this?

    3) The National Research Council’s one national research headquarters that is located in New Brunswick is the Institute of Information Technology. They were awarded $110M in ACOA money in 2000. NB ought to be an IT leader with the premier national research center located here yet we are in decline. Would we have been better off making the $110 million available to industry?

    Stunning that we are doing so poorly with the national center for research in IT located here, and we are home to the first university in Canada to offer computer engineering. For most sectors we complain of inadequate human resource supply and poor research capacity. In this case, these are rare strengths for New Brunswick. So what is up? Should we give up on the sector or is there something we can change to salvage some return on our investment?

  3. The NBTel story has never fully been told. I think there is a book there if someone like Gerry Pond would write it. I personally believe that a strong ICT sector needs large anchors that can spent money on R&D, recruit and pay top talent and most importantly incubate new ICT leaders. I think the loss of NBTel has been mostly negative but as you point out there are over a dozen ICT firms (by my count) that have ex NBTel leadership in their top management.

    The NRC can and should be a catalyst. There is a role for an R&D middleman like the NRC. It has played a key role in the development of Canada’s aerospace and life sciences industries (just not in New Brunswick). The NRC IIT should be such a catalyst for ICT in New Brunswick. Access to capital for ICT startups is a complicated issue and I don’t have the time to dedicate to it here but I have discussed it elsewhere if you want to search the blog archives.

    UNB has been turning out CS talent for decades. I remember that UNB was known for its computer program back in the 1980s. Now I hear they are having trouble filling up classes. I think UNB should do a little navel gazing and determine just what its role should be as a driver of ICT growth in the province. I also think the provincial government should have a long look at things. Some people have asked why the growth rate in ICT employment in Fredericton has been so low compared to SJ and Moncton from 1996 to 2006. I don’t know the answer to this but I think this notion of government as ‘model user’ of ICT may have something to do with it. In the early to mid 1990s, the provincial government spent a pile of dough (relative to other governments) on ICT (think Info Highway Secretariat, Service NB, and the unfortunate but ambitious McKenna effort with I think it was Andersen Consulting? to develop eGovernment). I think that rapid increase in government ICT workers was moderated in the late 1990s and through the 2000s.

  4. It certainly seems we failed to grow and gain market share when the ICT setcor was new and rapidly expanding. Now there are established, well integrated competitors in a much more mature sector and, with globalization, more competitors trying to enter the market. While one could argue every sector faces such conditions, it is no longer fair to categorize ICT as an emerging sector with lots of new market potential and easily addressable demand.

    It is probably time to spend a little less money on home-grown companies and a little more on attracting established companies to New Brunswick.

  5. Very interesting. I need to go over it again but a few thoughts that went through me my head were: Relative to Moncton & SJ, Fredericton hasn’t grown much – is that due more to the gains of those two cities or Fredericton “dropping the ball”?

    While it’s good to have ICT companies with more employees than the national average (concentration of workers), does that make NB vulnerable to a greater impact when one company leaves, or cutbacks take place?

    Looking ahead: what happens if the business of “cloud computing” catches on and more and more companies decide to eliminate their IT departments in favour of Amazon or Google servers etc. to maintain that aspect of their business? If computers become increasingly access points as opposed to bases maintaining software and data, wouldn’t this have a large impact on those departments, and on telephone support? I’m not suggesting this is happening or will happen the day after tomorrow, but if we can assess the current state of the province, and of the industry overall, can we then make some educated guesses as to how it will evolve and prepare for, even capitalize on it?

    Just some thoughts I had after going over the report. I agree with what it says about needing more data and better definitions so we can get a better grasp of the state of things.

  6. I don’t think Fredericton has dropped any ball. It had a larger ICT sector in 1996 so that explains some of the slower growth rate. Also, I think Fredericton was disporportionately affected by the elearning industry collapse in the early 1990s.

  7. Premier Graham: “Today information and communication technology is the second most important industry in the province,” he said. “And it continues to grow at such an explosive rate – it’s a testament to what the future holds for New Brunswick.”

    From TJ, “GreenNexxus named most promising start-up“

  8. I used to be frustrated by politicians spinning but now I realize it is part of the process and will never change. Journalists need to hold politicians accountable. Quite frankly, I was surprised that the ICT industry has done quite well comparatively speaking although the term ‘explosive’ didn’t come to mind.

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