Enabling SME Tech Adoption – A Priority for Recovery and Success in the Digital Economy

March 31, 2021 | 1:00 p.m. EDT

Embracing tech is not just the ‘next normal’ it is non-negotiable. In a digitally driven world economy, the need to fully embrace technology is no longer just a wise thing to do – it is absolutely required for a nation’s economic future. Therefore, it is up to governments, in partnership with industry and other stakeholders to understand and fully support e-commerce and all aspects of a digital economy by adopting rules that favor the adoption of Information and communication technologies (ICTs) and economic growth. – WITSA

The opportunity is now. Governments, the private sector, international organizations and citizens and all other stakeholders must answer the challenge of increasing digitalization and dare to make a difference.

What is the challenge? The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2020 rated Canada’s readiness to create vibrant business environments and its economic transformation readiness high against other industrialized nations. However, Canada did not even breach the top 10 in ICT adoption. While there are some large multi-national and high growth firms leading tech adoption, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in particular appear to be struggling due to uncertainty on how to leverage tech and data as tools to support better business outcomes.

Why does it matter? According to ISED 2019 Key Small Business Statistics, SMEs comprise 99.8% of businesses in Canada and account for over 50% of Canada’s GDP. So, non- participation in the digital economy presents a huge gap in innovative capacity and economic potential. Supporting SME adoption of data and tech is therefore a significant economic opportunity for Canada and Canadian businesses.

What are SME barriers to tech adoption? We have had three TECH4CANADA Council Meetings: March, June and November 2020. While the specific agendas varied, a consistent theme was the challenge of data and tech adoption by SMEs. SMEs have several barriers to adoption particularly as it applies to their recovery and scaling up: they have limited capital and resources to support digital transformation; they are hesitant to invest in data and business technology at the expense of revenue generating activities; they are fearful of investing in the technology and not seeing the return on investment; and they don’t understand the potential benefits of data and tech in achieving their business goals relative to other interventions.

What can we do about it? Our November 2020 Council meeting focused on the challenges of tech adoption by non-tech SMEs. Several ideas emerged on how Government and Industry can partner to address this challenge. Ideas included: improving the communications and marketing strategy addressing the need to ‘get teched-out’; provision of training and education; increasing subsidies and tax incentives; simplifying processes to obtain funding; adapting government procurement policies and models to make them accessible to SMEs; and industry coaching and mentoring.

We want to move beyond discussion to identifying concrete actions that Government and Industry can collaborate on to address the challenge.

Join us for this critical TECH4CANADA Roundtable – 31 March 2021

Event Purpose & Outcomes TECHNATION will bring together Industry and Government thought leaders to identify collaboration opportunities to remove barriers and enable greater participation for Canadian business in the digital economy.

This event will be focused on delivering a draft co-developed action-plan for private-public sector partnership and implementation in the form of, for example but not limited to an Government- Industry task force to co-create a whitepaper, an educational program, or other activity that will help achieve our goals

Event Format Kicking off with a round-table discussion to set the stage – senior industry and government executives will discuss ‘What’s in the art of the possible in the next 12 – 18 months

Followed by Government Leader Insights and Recommendations
2.  Facilitating the adoption challenge – recommendations for an action-oriented approach.

Co-Host Sponsor:


CEO Roundtable discussion 1:10 p.m. – 1:40 p.m.

Corinne Pohlmann,
Senior Vice-President, National Affairs and Partnerships, CFIB

Corinne Pohlmann is Senior Vice President, National Affairs and Partnerships for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), a not-for-profit organizationrepresenting more than 109,000 small and medium-sized business members across Canada.Corinne is based in Ottawa and is responsible for managing CFIB’s strategic direction onnational affairs, and sensitizing governments to the needs of Canada’s independentbusinesses. In addition to her federal legislative responsibilities, Corinne also oversees CFIB’sEconomics function, Products and Partnerships division, including Strategic Relationships,CFIB’s Atlantic Canada legislative team and a number of major marketing initiatives.
Since joining the Federation in 1998, Corinne first worked in research, where she authoredseveral research reports on a variety of public policy and economic issues. In 2000, Corinnebecame CFIB’s Director of Provincial Affairs for Alberta/NWT based in Edmonton and spentalmost six years representing the interests of Alberta and NWT members to all levels ofgovernment. Corinne moved to Ottawa in 2006 to pursue her current position.

Since 2006, Corinne has participated in numerous consultations and committees on a widevariety of small business issues, including the SME Advisory Committee to the Minister ofInternational Trade, the Advisory Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, aswell as the Deputy Minister Advisory Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
Corinne was born and raised in Montreal where she attended McGill University – graduatingwith both a Bachelor and a Masters Degree in Geography. Prior to joining CFIB, Corinne spenta few years in Ottawa with a national travel trade association, and as a college instructor,before moving to Toronto to start her career with CFIB.

Honourable Perrin Beatty, PC, OC
President and Chief Executive Officer Canadian Chamber of Commerce

The Honourable Perrin Beatty, PC, OC, is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the 200,000-member Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canada’s largest and most representative national business association. Before joining the Canadian Chamber in August 2007, Perrin held the same role at Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME).
A descendant of one of Canada’s most prominent manufacturing families, he grew up in Fergus, Ontario and graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1971.
Perrin was first elected to the House of Commons as a Progressive Conservative in 1972. During his 21 years in Parliament, he served as Minister in seven different portfolios, including Treasury Board, National Revenue, Solicitor General, Defence, National Health and Welfare, Communications and External Affairs.

In 1994, Perrin joined a number of private sector boards and worked as a consultant in communications. In addition, he was an Honorary Visiting Professor in Western University’s Department of Political Science. From 1995 to 1999, he served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
In keeping with his long-standing interest in education, Perrin served as Chancellor of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology from 2008 to 2015. He has received honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Western University, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Wilfrid Laurier University.

Perrin is currently a member of the board of directors of Mitsui Canada and in 2018, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for his lifetime of public service and for his devotion to the development of our nation as a community leader and corporate visionary. In 2020, the Government of Japan awarded Perrin the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, in recognition of his many distinguished achievements in international relations and advancements in Canada-Japan business relations.

Rocco Rossi,
President and CEO at Ontario Chamber of Commerce

A successful entrepreneur and business executive, champion fundraiser, and dedicated public servant, Rocco Rossi joins the Ontario Chamber of Commerce in 2018 as President and CEO.  

Coming from his role as President and CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada and earlier as the CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation – one of Canada’s largest non-profit organizations – Rossi has overseen consecutive years of record fundraising combining for over $600 million in total and launching many new, life-saving initiatives. 

His passion for public policy has led him to stand for election both for the position of Mayor of Toronto and for MPP. 

Mr. Rossi has held senior positions at the Boston Consulting Group, TORSTAR, Labatt/Interbrew and MGI Software. He is a graduate of McGill and Princeton. 

Rossi currently serves as a member of the Board and Audit Committee of TerraVest Industries. A past board member of United Way of Greater Toronto and other charities, Mr. Rossi has been an active community builder. In fact, in 2012 he was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for his Philanthropic and Community service. 

Tech adoption challenge Panel 1:40 p.m – 2:10 p.m.

Andrea Johnston,
Assistant Deputy Minister Innovation Canada

Andrea Johnston is the Assistant Deputy Minister, Innovation Canada, an organization within Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), that leads the federal government’s collaborative platform to help Canada’s innovators and entrepreneurs find and access government programs and services. In this role, Andrea leads delivery of new programs under the Innovation and Skills Plan including the Innovation Superclusters Initiative, the Strategic Innovation Fund, Innovative Solutions Canada and the Accelerated Growth Service.  Andrea is also the department’s Diversity and Inclusion champion.

Andrea Johnston joined ISED in May 2017 to be the Director General (DG) of the Economic Strategy Tables and Skills Branch, where she provided senior leadership on the Department’s skills agenda and implementation of Canada’s six economic strategy tables. These industry-led tables developed concrete strategies and targets for Canada’s economic growth.

Prior to joining ISED, Andrea had an extensive career at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) where she was the DG responsible for sectoral development and analysis covering livestock, grains, horticulture, dairy and food processing as well as leading the Department’s value chain roundtables. Andrea was also AAFC’s Corporate Secretary.

Anne Bermonte, Assistant Deputy Minister, Business Partnerships and Programs Division, Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.

Event Details

1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. ET