Article written by PAUL CLARKE, TELEGRAPH JOURNAL
One of New Brunswick’s most progessive thinkers and entrepreneurs wants to transform the province’s information technology sector by harnessing “big data” technology.
Geoff Flood, president of T4G Ltd., a technology services company, wants to build a data science centre of excellence to draw big-name investors such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Google and others to invest, once again, in the province.
“We are collecting enormous sums of data every second of every day thanks to technology. Experts tell us the amount of data stored worldwide doubles every two or three years,”Flood said in an open letter.
“The problem is the information being collected is raw, complicated, unrelated and unwieldy. We’re in the very early days – pioneer days- of big data: a vast, untamed expanse with resources galore, but where the data equivalent to railways, roads and homes still need to be built.”
The term “big data” refers to data sets that grow so large and complex that they become awkward to work with using current database management tools.
The challenge is to develop innovative products that provide businesses, organizations and governments with a better understanding about the intrinsic patters and correlations between individual databases.
New Brunswick is in a strong position to take advantage of this growing industry, it's a place where smart people want to live, where schools of higher learning have proven to be active partners and the province has visionary leaders.
And that’s exactly what Flood hopes to do.
“One of the strengths of New Brunswick is that we are small and we can be more agile and responsive to opportunities. We also have a good working relationship with business, academia and the government and if we’re all aligned there’s an opportunity to train and provide deep analytical science-based services to the rest of the world.”
According to McKinsey Global Institute, a global management consulting firm, the U.S. needs between 140,000 and 190,000 workers with “deep analytical” expertise and another 1.5 million managers with data literacy. Flood believes New Brunswick could train many of these workers and create an attractive environment for big data companies to locate here.
“I’ve been beating the drum on the idea for the last few months because I think it’s something that’s achievable,” Flood said, “If you look at it from the industry side of things, the industry is crying for resources.”
Premier David Alward, during his State of the Province address in January, called on his federal counterparts to ensure New Brunswick receives its “fair share” of research and development funding and described innovation as the “rocket fuel” of the economy.
“If you buy into the notion that we need exports to drive prosperity here and that the tech sector represents a significant opportunity to help drive those exports, then something that is targeted at trying to create new ideas in a sub-sector of technology that is growing quite fast is a very good thing indeed,” said Larry Sampson, CEO of New Brunswick Information Technology Council.
New Brunswick’s flourishing IT industry is worth $2.2 billion annually and includes 650 firms, which employ 30,000 New Brunswickers.
“The opportunity afforded by big data is quite significant and it’s going nowhere but up,” said Flood.
He said New Brunswick is in a strong position to take advantage of this growing industry because the province is a place where smart people want to live, where schools of higher learning have proven to be active partners and the province has visionary leaders in both the public and private sectors.
“We’re going to do it no matter what,” said Flood, explaining that if all the players come to the table this could prove to be a huge boost for the New Brunswick economy for years to come.