Over the last several years, many Canadian researchers and news outlets have commented on the rise of political propaganda bots on social media platforms. There are reports of Twitter bot usage in Quebec politics as early as 2012, and yet it seems these trends continue unabated without any meaningful regulation. Reasonable calls for a digital campaigning code of conduct seem to fall on deaf ears, leaving policing of these matters to the very social media outlets that allowed this to happen in the first place. What does it mean for democracy when a propaganda bot is indistinguishable from a human account? The recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica and its alleged Canadian offshoot AggregateIQ have put these modern political tactics under increased scrutiny, but will anything actually change?
Rhonda Vetre, CTO of Estee Lauder: My executive leadership role in the male-dominated tech sphere not only calls for frequent global travel, but moreover, demands that I collaborate with people of many different cultures on a regular basis, which has offered inspiring learning and unique leadership experiences that have had a measurable impact on my career and my ability to adapt and drive change. Kristina Cleary, CMO of Ceridian: The traditional organizational structure is becoming obsolete. With the end customer becoming what could arguably be the most important stakeholder in the modern business, businesses are changing the way they operate. There’s a shift occurring toward a customer-centric model – one where an organization supports, communicates and reacts to its customers’ needs first. Jennifer Schaffer, CIO of Athabasca University: At a research-intensive digital university, the effective integration of technology and people is essential to helping learners achieve their highest potential. Technology has never and can never exist for its own sake. Athabasca University operates 100% people-focused technology.
The worst atrocities of our species have been perpetrated within the name of “purpose” – by those who would inflict their purpose on all others, and rob them of this fundamental freedom. Let’s make it our purpose to end such imposition of will. What follows from this, if we carry it forward, are two other mandates: first, to preserve the freedom of meaning-making for future generations of our own species; and second, to extend the ideals of “Pragmatic Tolerance” (that is, tolerance of everything but intolerance itself) as much as possible to species other than our own. Maybe Star Trek had it right: in much the same way that travel (especially the kind that involves a deep immersion in local culture and language) cures most of the diseases of prejudice and xenophobia, perhaps a commitment to exploring and embracing the various forms of intelligence found on our own world and others will cure our species of both the short-sightedness and hubris that will otherwise most certainly be our downfall.
Compugen is proud to announce that Terry Mirza, Vice-President of Sales, Canada West and United States, has joined The Canadian Cloud Council, an independent, vendor-neutral association focused on building an open, accessible and secure technology ecosystem. Membership in The Canadian Cloud Council is expected to strengthen Compugen’s business intelligence, industry connections and business capabilities, providing our customers with tools necessary to effectively leverage technology as a mechanism for growth and value differentiation. “In joining the Council, Mr. Mirza is aligning Compugen with practical visionaries already on the Council, including representatives of government and government agencies, large technology and resource extraction interests, dynamic entrepreneurial businesses, educational institutions, thought leaders, journalists and policy makers with an intense interest in expanding the positive social role of technology while protecting privacy, security and democratic engagement,” said Robert Brennan Hart, Founder and CEO of The Canadian Cloud Council. “Compugen looks forward to learning from and sharing with the Council our insights into driving innovation through technology in spheres where we have gained a deep understanding of the challenges and limitations of traditional approaches—for example, the challenge of managing computer service delivery across vast Canadian geographies—while bringing to our customers the best ideas from the vast bank of experience represented by Council members,” said Mr. Mirza.
In his day job, entrepreneur and investor Robert Herjavec works hard to prevent security breaches. At least when he's not investing in ugly sweaters, hand-held breathometers, or books that turn into lights on ABC's hit entrepreneurship and investment show, Shark Tank. Herjavec, whose Herjavec Group manages cybersecurity for some of the biggest corporations on the planet, will be speaking at the upcoming Canadian Cloud Council conference Control in May. "This whole idea of ambient computing becomes part of the daily tapestry of our daily lives ... in homes, cars, malls," says Herjavec. "We see this going into the large-scale enterprise to monitor environments, create logs, and enhance security." But we're going to need more than monitoring, Herjavec added. The recent false missile crisis in Hawaii is a perfect example. The island paradise's population of almost 1.5 million was terrified by a false alarm of an incoming missile. While this was a simple mistake caused by a poor user interface and quickly corrected, imagine the chaos that malware infecting systems like this could create. "It's a cascading effect," Herjavec says. "What if there’s a malware that impacts a whole community ... I see the promise of hardwired device being able to protect against that, a kill switch to stop a laptop or a phone." Ultimately, what's going to protect our computer systems is artificial intelligence ... an always-on system that is continuous probing for vulnerabilities, searching for dangerous patterns of traffic and access, and patching holes in real-time. That's going to take a while to achieve. In the meantime, Herjavec sees three intermediary steps. The first is orchestration: setting up systems like Splunk or Phantom that can control different devices on your network and automatically update them as needed. The second is integration: deeply integrating those systems and devices to enable that control. And the third, Herjavec says, is creating a heterogeneous ecosystem where everything can work together.
Herein lies the problem, the widespread use of bandwidth caps in Canada is partially the result of a market defined by vast geographies and a limited population base. This has resulted in a highly concentrated market controlled by a small group of ISPs. Making things worse is a highly government controlled telecom industry that prevents foreign investments, particularly for wireless and broadband services. This combination of factors has led to one of the most restrictive markets for cloud computing as well as other internet related services found in any of the major industrialized nations today.
In the US, Uber’s CEO has quit the Trump administration’s tech advisory council that includes the top names in Silicon Valley, citing huge pressure from citizens and customers. The promise of ‘smart cities’ of the near future is being undermined by deep concerns over security. Foreign governments are caught up in accusations of hacking utilities and democratic elections. If there was ever a time when we needed to sort out the issues facing government and technology, it is now. Substance creator Robert Brennan Hart, no stranger to massive events covering the intersection of politics and technology, has partnered with the likes of Macleans, Forbes, and others to get the word out on this extravaganza of big thinking.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Where exactly does ‘the cloud’ float? Like its namesake, the world of nebulously-hosted Internet applications has a way of drifting across borders. For many users, this isn’t an issue. But for some in the government and institutional worlds, location still matters: worries persist that data hosted in foreign centres could be tapped by their respective governments, as under the American government’s Patriot Act. The threat caused by Canadian data residing on foreign hard drives can be a matter of perception, Mr. Hart acknowledges. “This is a very interesting and fairly controversial topic,” he says. “Does the Patriot Act have more data access authority than CSIS or the EU? Everyone you talk to has a different opinion.”
The cloud workspace is convenient, but is it secure? That’s the question many Canadian institutions and businesses grapple with, especially because legislation in the U.S. permits the American government to access data hosted on its soil. The Politburo has a solution. The curiously named Calgary startup has created the first Canadian-hosted cloud workspace, meaning businesses can sign up for a cloud solution with guaranteed data privacy. And the company doesn’t only provide an online cloud system where you can share and store data. It will also host applications like Microsoft Office or QuickBooks, typically hosted on American or foreign servers, so that data inputted through these programs is also protected. While the company was only founded in February 2013, it already has four data centres in Western Canada. And with a service as useful as secure cloud space, that number may keep growing. The Politburo hosts over 350 popular applications, from service providers Microsoft, Adobe Live and Salesforce
The opening speakers for The Cloud Factory include Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat and Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware. “The move to the cloud is on par with the Industrial Revolution and highlights the first real push into a global Information Economy, but not all clouds are created equal,” said Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat. “Given the importance of cloud computing to the continued existence of business in general, enterprise buyers and CIOs must ensure that their chosen cloud platform remains open and transparent, eliminating lock-in and keeping their data free and flexible. This is why the education and conversations fostered by The Cloud Factory and the Canadian Cloud Council are so important to the business world at-large.” Other highlight speakers include CIO of New York Times, CIO of NASA, CIO of Walmart Canada, Former CIO of the US Federal Government, CIO of City of Edmonton, CIO of City of Calgary, Founder of OpenStack, Founder of Hadoop, Head of User Growth at LinkedIn, Chief Data Scientist at Mailchimp, GM of Box, VP of Platform at Salesforce and VP of Strategy at IBM to name a few. Additionally a long list of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, including representatives from Accel Partners, Bessemer Ventures, Hummer Winblad, Emergence Capital, Microsoft Ventures and SAP Ventures, will be in attendance to see some of the most innovative enterprise startups compete in the Canadian Cloud Showdown.
The two things that the Canadian Cloud Council are doing to fix the potential misconception that “cloud is risky” are to explain the nuances so Canadian consumers evaluate risk more intelligently and holistically; and reset the expectations of cloud adoption so people realize that the risk isn’t about adopting clouds, it’s about not doing so and getting beaten by faster, more focused, more agile competitors who overcome traditional barriers to entry. Second of all, cloud (like the Internet) is inherently multinational and it is possible that we created an artificial borders problem. Saying “the Canadian cloud” doesn’t mean much; it’s like saying “the Canadian Internet.” With most of our TV shows and films coming from the US, there’s no reason to expect that we’ll maintain our national identity in the long haul without a significant amount of effort. If a company uses Google Mail, Dropbox, Expensify, Salesforce, Freshbooks, Tripit, and a bunch of other cloud services, perhaps only one or a few of them are Canadian. Does the end user of the consumable cloud service really care about data sovereignty or where a cloud service resides? Or, does the issue reside only with the CIO who may be fighting the “Shadow IT” brigade anyways? The Canadian Cloud Council is educating Canadian corporations on how to drive effective cultural change management processes within an organization so cloud is provisioned and operationalized in a unified, measured and ROI driven fashion. If both the business and technology side of an organization build a cloud strategy in unison, understand the risks and rewards of the cloud in unison and actively support the operational process in unison, it has as much better chance of successful execution and acceleration.
“Open source software is the best way to level the playing field against very entrenched companies when they stop innovating. Entrenched companies build a proprietary ecosystem around their technology, which both creates lock-in and further stymies innovation around the periphery of their product. Small innovators are often acquired as they become competitive. In this way, entrenched companies are like black holes … when innovators get too close, they get sucked in, and at some point there’s just so much critical mass around the old way of doing something that a radical shift in how you approach something isn’t possible anymore, because it threatens too many interests and there is too much change. By contrast, a new open source project is like a new star being born. Like stardust in a nebula, software engineers begin to coalesce around the opportunity to solve some really big problem, and new way of doing something, and that is very powerful.”
“Subculture is bringing together true thought leadership and helping to further define what is important for the Canadian cloud ecosystem,” noted Matthew McKinney, Chief Strategy Officer at Auro. “We see people interacting with mobile technologies more and more, in every aspect of their lives, both personally and professionally,” said Ricardo Casanova, Co-Founder of Mobile Monday Edmonton. “This is a time of convergence, and we are beyond excited to partner with the Canadian Cloud Council to facilitate a meaningful discussion on where we are headed,” said Ricardo Casanova, cofounder of Mobile Monday Edmonton.
“My thought is, if organizations want to compete right now, they have to use cloud … But the fear of not being able to use public-based cloud services, things like Salesforce.com, and even Yahoo and Google and DropBox, because these infrastructure and application services are not hosted in Canada … [This] remains the most significant barrier to cloud adoption in Canada,” he says. “I think what really needs to happen in Canada is a group of organizations needs to come together and create a similar infrastructure platform, something like Amazon Web Services down in the States.” As Canada is a relatively small market, Hart doesn’t believe bigger players like Google or Amazon will be making any forays here any time soon. That mean Canadian SMBs have to turn to U.S. infrastructure if they want to leverage cloud. Still, if they had the choice, they might opt for their Canadian counterparts, he says. However, he notes the Canadian Cloud Council has already had some U.S. companies inquire about cloud services in Canada, and he believes Europe and other regions are beginning to turn to Canada as a data haven. He adds that many Canadian companies, like Mitel Networks Corp. and SaskTel Corp., have started making their own plays into the cloud computing space.
STREET AUTHORITY NETWORK
The pilgrimage north has already begun from European banking and insurance firms in the U.S. to American oil and gas companies and retail outlets -- Robert Hart, founder of the Canadian Cloud Council, told The Toronto Star, without outing specific companies. Many are looking elsewhere to protect confidential information that now resides in giant climate-controlled warehouses on computer servers in the U.S. Hart also told The Star, "I would say there's a lot of movement right now at a political level to convince some of these larger software companies… to host their software in Canada to get that data away from the NSA for optical reasons." While the council tries to sell "Project Damage Control" to U.S. cloud industry behemoths, one British Columbia-based company has already added "less snooping" to its sales pitch to foreigners looking for a non-U.S. data hosting provider. The new marketing message has already begun to pay dividends for Telus Corp. (TU). The Canadian telco has had more inquiries in the past 12 months from companies outside North America than in the entire previous decade.
There are tons of startups in Canada, and even more established players, who offer either software as a service or who could run government servers from their own data centre. The Canadian Cloud Council, another industry group that has been advocating for this sort of change, sees empowering those nascent firms as critical to Canada’s overall position in the global market. “This is a fundamental issue of economics and has very little to do with information technology,” says Robert Hart, its president. “It needs to addressed at the top level of the Canadian government if we expect to remain a remotely competitive nation.”
And therein lies the million – err, billion – dollar question for Alberta’s startup community: Can it produce a Snapchat or an Instagram of its own? There have certainly been some successes already, including eThor, which has raised millions of dollars in funding (including some from tech icon Mark Cuban) and was named the “most innovative startup on the planet” at the 2012 Global Technology Symposium. There’s also Edmonton’s Mover, a company that’s developed a solution allowing users to move large batches of files between different cloud platforms. “When they first started, they were focused on the actual application,” Hart says, “but I think now they’re more focused on the platform and integrating with their APIs [application programming interfaces] to create a much more interesting solution. They’ve done really well over the last year, and I’d say in Canada they’re one of the three or four more compelling cloud companies out there. I’d be surprised if they’re not acquired in the next couple of years.”
Reichental is one of several tech trailblazers slated to speak at Interzone, an annual event hosted by the Canadian Cloud Council. Interzone will take place at the Fairmont Banff Springs in Alberta from March 11 to 13, 2015. The conference will examine the blurring lines between disruptive startup subculture and enterprise technology, said Canadian Cloud Council CEO Robert Hart. “The new order of information technology is prevailing,” he said. “Once precious, expensive and scarce IT resources, controlled by a cartel of machines and processes, are now immediately and widely available to the common consumer. Innovation is now less about access to technology and more about the rapid convergence of art, science and global socio-economics.”
Croxon said he sees the intersection of technology and the energy sector playing a big role in the next decade of digital opportunities, especially given the looming labour shortage in the oil patch. “The ability to put IP connectivity across any device is allowing information to be curated and to be gathered without the use of feet on the ground,” he said. “Instead of sending somebody in a truck to check a leak, if we’re getting information back that tells us there’s a leak, that’s a better use of our time. That would be a small example… there’s opportunities emerging in transportation, and within the oil patch, to make it more efficient and for the first time I’m finding that people in those sectors are starting to pay attention to it.”
You could be forgiven for thinking the cloud is simply a place where your e-mail or digital music is stored, but Hart explains that it is much, much more important than that. “The cloud is simply a mechanism to accelerate innovation,” says Hart. “If you look at a large organization like Facebook, all of their software is hosted on cloud computing infrastructure, and that eco-system is creating a lot of economic value.”
Robert Brennan Hart, the Founder and CEO of Politik, a technology media company headquartered in Vancouver, recently hosted the largest Canadian enterprise technology event, Interzone, in the city. Before creating Politik, Hart founded the Canadian Cloud Council, a national not-for-profit association focused on accelerating Canada’s cloud computing industry, and has seen the evolution of Vancouver into a greener, more tech-friendly space. Hart says that the impetus has been the global awareness of climate change’s impacts on the environment in the long term. “The hyper-acceleration of the internet has seen technology move from the narrow confines of the largest governments and corporations to become an integral part of all aspects of human endeavor,” commented Hart.
Managing chaos and the future of business. Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, kicked off the conference by keynoting a presentation on Year Zero – about how today’s business world is advancing so quickly that there is very little to compare between what we do now and what we did even at the beginning of the Internet age (much less the pre-digital era). “Between the social world and the enterprise world, there’s convergence,” he said. “Businesses today need to combine the pieces that are important to the people, like social, while integrating analytics, to make products useful.”
Is this a tech conference bridging startups and enterprise, or Occupy Wall Street West Coast? From my most recent Fallout 3 playthrough, recursive loops of Liberty Prime’s reassuring anti-Red words of wisdom start echoing in my brain… At which point, I remind myself that this event is sponsored by the likes of IBM and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. And that nominally straight-edge folks like BC Minister of Technology Amrik Virk, CBC’s Dragon’s Den star Bruce Coxon and TELUS Chief Data and Trust Officer Pamela Snively, along with the above-mentioned all-star lineup are all headlining this gig.
Robert Hart knows the power of cloud computing to disrupt the enterprise and the entire IT infrastructure industry. The founder & CEO of Politik and former head of the Canadian Cloud Council discusses what the ubiquity of the wired world means for the industry and his plans for Interzone, a three-day conference featuring some of North America’s top tech leaders.
"Canada has the capability of being a global leader in the areas of technology innovation and commercialization. With our expansive and resilient network infrastructure, inexpensive green energy, and agile and prosperous business environment, we should be excelling in the field of cloud computing. Right now, we are not," commented Robert Herjavec, CEO of Herjavec Group. "Canadian ICT policy makers, CIO''s, investors and consumers need to take a more open, assertive and unified approach to cloud commercialization and global exportation. "Cloud Matters" promises to be a thought provoking and revolutionary event focussed on building a stronger and more commercial cloud ecosystem. I look forward to participating in such a critical initiative and helping ensure that Canadians harness our incredible potential in the area of cloud computing," concluded Mr. Herjavec.