Paying tribute to John Reid, a technology leader always looking ahead and supporting broader issues

July 8th, 2019

With great sadness, I want to offer my tribute to John Reid, Canadian technology leader and influencer, not to mention a valued colleague and friend. John was in his 32nd year as the driving force behind the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATAAlliance) when he passed away on June 24th at the age of 69.

John Reid (Photo courtesy of CATAAlliance)

John Reid (Photo courtesy of CATAAlliance)

One of John’s great contributions when he joined CATA was his early support for initiatives designed to create respect and support for our small but evolving evolving high tech industry, and for the application of information technology and communications throughout our society.

Not long before John joined CATA, our Canadian Government’s Minister of Industry told me he supported the growing base of advanced technology companies but most politicians believed we were “just a few Ottawa folks trying to feather their nest” …! Those comments summarized our challenge through the seventies and the eighties.

I was CATA Board Chair at the time. To enhance our respectability, we then created the CATA National Advisory Council (CNAC), comprised of eminent Persons who were neither running high tech firms nor members of CATA. They were University presidents, business presidents … of Inco and others who used technology and eagerly became CNAC members.

Upon joining CATA as CEO, John became a big supporter of CNAC and he played a large role through the council to create Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s National Advisory Board for Science and Technology (NABST), chaired by the Prime Minister. NABST policies led to support for major new Canadian science and technology initiatives, including CANARIE Inc., the National Centres of Excellence and others. A number of CNAC members also became NABST members.

To further build support for IT systems applications and the industry, John supported the creation of The Canadian Information Productivity Awards (CIPA) in 1994 and it later became a CATA initiative. Over the next twelve years, CIPA added a lot of public credibility for ITC and the industry.

The respect and size established for CATA and the industry during John’s first sixteen CEO years allowed him to successfully focus his leadership and support over his next and last sixteen years on broader social issues like women’s roles and influence, safety and security, Smarter Cities through I-Canada and CATA’s broad positioning in the world of social media, all of which are well described by tributes from Dr Cindy Gordon and others.

We will all miss John, his humour, his leadership and his great contribution to Canada.

Many are praising John and his contributions to Canadian technology, including Sir Terence Matthews:

Sir Terence Matthews remembers John Reid from Alice Debroy on Vimeo.

The CBC reflects here on John’s accomplishments, and CATA has gathered more tributes here.

Responding to Don Tapscott’s call for a “new social contract we all have to build for the digital era”

September 26th, 2018

On Monday September 24th, Don Tapscott delivered some important and prescient remarks to The Walrus Talks Connections. He spoke of the need for a “new social contract we all have to build for the digital era”. A few days earlier this month the World Economic Forum (WEF) issued a report titled “Agile Cities: Preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” There is an interesting dichotomy between these two public presentations, mirroring what’s going on in general around the world.


Don is one of the world’s leading observers, thinkers and writers chronicling and participating in the world’s ongoing digital revolution. He is focused on the issues of trust and democracy in our societies, arguing that the present evolution of our new digital society with its uneven distribution of wealth and knowledge has elements similar to feudal days. Don argues we need to come together nationally to create a new digital democracy and replace the faltering one we created for the industrial age.

Meanwhile, the WEF report referencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution and introducing “Agile Cities”, provides another descriptor to compete with and perhaps complement “Smart, Intelligent Resilient, Sustainable, Investable, Innovative” and many others. They are all part of today’s urban digital transformation which is attracting billions of investment dollars and began around the time when I and other colleagues pioneered the creation of Smart Toronto ’94, twenty-four years ago. However, we must now prioritize and respond positively to Don’s call for action on the urgent need to study and create new national social contracts supporting a new digital democracy to replace our faltering industrial age ecosystems with their evolving feudal qualities.

Time is now for Canada to lead in new wave of broadband technologies

September 4th, 2018


A tsunami wave of next generation IT and Communications including 5G wireless, “antennas everywhere”, new extended LTE systems, more fibre and an estimated one million IoT sensors even in mid-sized cities, cries out for national collaborative planning to establish new standards and models.

I’ve written about this for IT World Canada. Learn more here.


Making the Case for Canada’s 21st Century Tax Commission

June 27th, 2018

It was my pleasure to add my voice to CATA Alliance’s new Campaign, entitled, “Call for Creating Canada’s 21st Century Tax Commission: Help CATAAlliance advance this important advocacy!”

Essentially, we need to be advancing technology in Canada – and, of course, the economic opportunities that go along with it – with a financial and tax system that keeps pace. Here’s what I had to say:

Making the Case for Canada’s 21st Century Tax Commission: Bill Hutchison, Innovation Community Leader from CATAAlliance on Vimeo.

Making the Case for Canada’s 21st Century Tax Commission: Bill Hutchison, Innovation Community Leader from CATAAlliance on Vimeo.

Full details of CATA’s campaign can be viewed here.

A quick recap of “Rethinking the Future”

April 17th, 2018


“Rethinking the Future” was the main theme in five different future focused events and discussions I enjoyed at the RSI | Rethink 2018 Leadership Summit on March 28, 2018 in Toronto.

I spoke at and chaired a panel at the excellent Rethink conference, organized by Yasmin Glanville, while participating in four other meetings and discussions during the week. Two meetings were focused on planning future lives for our citizens – one in a new 7,500 home local community – and the other was facilitating a meeting of the City of Vaughan’s Smart City Advisory Task Force to plan some award winning Smart City priorities.

Two other business meetings were concerned with the race to capture customers through their mobile phones as they approach “bricks and mortar stores”. Will suppliers of products or services reach these potential retail customers through the shopping mall’s software, or through the stores’ systems, or directly through the product suppliers’ own software? To be the winners in all cases, we need to “Change the Way We Change” says my colleague Neal Oswald.

The “Rethink” Conference was definitely focused on rethinking: sustainability, smart cities/future cities, architecture, transportation precision agriculture, finance, life and the impact of artificial intelligence.

Talking about Smart Cities: Challenges and Opportunities at the RSI | Rethink Sustainability Initiatives 2018 Leadership Summit – March 28, 2018 in Toronto

March 15th, 2018

Smart and Intelligent Cities were initiated seriously in the mid 1990’s in Singapore, Silicon Valley and Toronto. Today the global business of digitally driven urban transformation is approaching $1 trillion per year with estimates exceeding $3 trillion by 2023. Some colleagues and I created Smart Toronto ’94.

rsi-rethink-logoI’m excited to be reflecting on what has developed and evolved so far in the Smart City realm, and what challenges and opportunities lie ahead, as I join the distinguished group of thinkers and leaders in sustainability, business and science speaking at the RSI | Rethink Sustainability Initiatives 2018 Leadership Summit coming to Toronto on March 28, 2018. AI Sustainable Futures Summit and Innovation Zone is a one-day action-focused exchange where forward-thinking leaders, entrepreneurs and experts from business, finance, science, cities and civil society come together to discover opportunities for advancing our future sustainability — with special focus on artificial intelligence (AI), digital technologies and other transformative innovations.

In my talk, I will reflect on how there are now at least twenty definitions of “Smart Cities” created by reasonably credible associations, publications, academics and even countries, like India with their “100 Smart Cities” initiative. In addition, we have Sustainable, Resilient, Investable, Interconnected, Convenient, Future and Best Cities. No wonder people are confused!

In the “early” years, most Smart City activities and strategies had a definite technical orientation and today there is an increasing focus of the impact on our citizens and their “happiness” (Dubai’s focus), convenience and quality of life. We need to rethink the name and description of this overarching concept to include qualities associated with Smart, Intelligent, Resilient, Sustainable, Interconnected Investable, Convenient and Comfortable. It really is “My Future City” and it will include features important to specific cities while building on their present advantages and relevant future opportunities.

In addition to gaining insights from leading edge participants in new trends and innovations, AI Sustainable Futures Summit and Innovation Zone will be the place to forge new partnerships with fellow trailblazers for getting to the next level of future readiness. I hope to see you there!

Register here for RSI | Rethink Sustainability Initiatives 2018 Leadership Summit – March 28, 2018 in Toronto.


CATA makes the right call about hitting the tax reset button

October 4th, 2017

We need the Prime Minister to “hit the tax reset button” – otherwise, it appears “the left hand giveth while the right hand taketh away”. Innovation Superclusters, Smart Cities Challenge, CENGN (Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks) and ENCQOR (Evolution of Networked Services through a Corridor in Québec and Ontario for Research and Innovation) investments are disabled when deducting from risk-taking entrepreneurs who are creating jobs and growing our economy.

cata-alliance-logoSpurred by the backlash to the federal government’s proposed tax changes, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATAAlliance, at has launched a campaign calling for the government to pause and reset its priorities on small business- and startup-focused policies. CATA CEO John Reid talked to the Ottawa Business Journal about it recently.



Checking in for a Smart Cities Innovation Advocacy update

November 14th, 2016

Back in August, CATAAlliance (, Canada’s One Voice for Innovation Lobby Group, called on Canada’s federal government to create a national Smart Communities Development Fund “SCDF” of $300 million to support the digital transformation of our cities and smaller communities and create a new $20 billion export trade business with an enhanced Smart City industrial sector as an integral part of building Canada as a global centre for innovation.

CATAAlliance keeps us updated on this initiative here. As well, I had the pleasure of weighing in on why the initiative matters here:

Canada’s New Smart Cities Challenge: Bill Hutchison, i-Canada Chair from CATAAlliance on Vimeo.

As I commented, “Digital transformation of life in our cities is creating enormous opportunities. The opportunities are to experience the economic, social and environmental benefits from becoming leaders in digital transformation. Substantial new trade opportunities are also available. The global market is growing rapidly to nearly one trillion dollars per year and growth is accelerating as countries like India move forward with their plan to create 100 new Smart Cities. Canada has established an impressive foundation in the field but global growth is accelerating and national governments are jumping in to support their cities and to create effective international sales and export capabilities. Becoming an established innovation nation requires effective national participation in the rapidly evolving Smart City movement.”

Smart Cities: Aligning Citizen Priorities with a Digital Strategy

October 12th, 2016

The world’s leading Smart, Intelligent, Sustainable and Resilient Cities or “Future Cities, are enjoying exceptional economic, social and environmental benefits. New incoming investment, the retention and attraction of young people, new knowledge jobs and improved citizen collaboration are just a few of the many benefits.

Urban digital transformation is a trillion-dollar global business today and about fifty cities in the world have made it to the top tier of Future City rankings. They are “Today’s Winners”. Others are moving up the scale – “Tomorrow’s Winners” – while hundreds of others have not started or are spending time and money with processes that are not working (“The Others”).

One reason why The Others are behind is they are lacking a strategic plan/roadmap that includes the priorities of citizens and community stakeholders, a plan/roadmap aligns those priorities with a digital strategy. The Others often start with a digital strategy by itself and begin designing and implementing it only to be rebuffed by City Council who have not participated in high level priority setting with citizen and stakeholder groups. Councillors have not been a part of the visioning process.

Meanwhile, The Winners are implementing Strategic Technology Alignment or “STA”, a phrase and process created 25 years ago when academic research at MIT identified the benefits of aligning IT investments with strategic goals of the organization. Business organizations have included STA in their plans for many years but it is a challenge in municipal government, in part because of the added management complexity in cities compared to business organizations.

Cities have more outside influences and influencers to be managed. The overall management challenge is very different because stakeholders and important citizens’ groups are not city government employees, but they are an important part of the “organization” writ large. Collaboration and consensus is important in Future City transformation. It requires strong leadership, and real success is achieved only when members of the entire community believe they have an effective voice in the Future City transformation process.

A Future City plan featuring Strategic Technology Alignment blends the benefits of being Smart, Intelligent, Sustainable, Resilient, and incorporates other themes such as Creative and Comfortable. Citizen and community stakeholder priorities inform the digital strategy which then connects many disparate applications and themes. The result is an effective and efficient transformation process that is creating Tomorrow’s Winners.

Establishing a Future City plan with STA, including citizen priorities, can be achieved in three months – in Canada at least because of the availability of necessary citizen research coordinates for outreach feedback. The process requires strong senior civic leadership and oversight by a Smart City Advisory Board or Task Force representing all dimensions of the community. The result will be citizen satisfaction and support with better civic productivity and important future positioning on the national and global scene.

bill-hutchison-linkedin-100To schedule a seminar on Fast Start Citizen Outreach with Strategic Technology Alignment contact us here or on LinkedIn at

Yes indeed, it’s time to build Canada’s 21st-century infrastructure

September 30th, 2016

This summer, Adam Belsher, CEO of Magnet Forensics wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail that I’ve been pondering. Take a look:

It’s time to build Canada’s 21st-century infrastructure
by Adam Belsher
The Globe and Mail, July 28, 2016

Canada’s economy is facing serious headwinds. Our trade deficit continues to grow. Our economic growth has been stunted as the world moves toward a post-commodities-driven economy, toward wealth creation where intangible goods drive the greatest profit. This new reality is putting our social infrastructure, health care, education and other public goods at grave risk.

Our federal government has recognized these challenges and committed to stimulating our economy through infrastructure investments. This could pay great dividends – or leave our next generations with a heavy bill to pay. The result depends on our leaders’ ability to make calculated investments in what’s needed for the future.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Excellent article! Talking about strategic investments and future markets, the UK and the US are great examples of identifying the benefits of stimulating the “Smart City” market, already estimated globally at $1 trillion per year. I’m using “Smart” to include all elements of urban digital transformation to what today we are calling a combination of Smart/Intelligent/Sustainable/Resilient etc. – in other words, our Future Communities.

The UK is pursuing two goals: Create a nation of the world’s leading Future Communities and also capture 10% of the global market for their own export business. To achieve their goal … and they are already succeeding with excellent results, they created the Smart Cities fund of approximately $500 million and invited cities to submit proposals for demonstrator projects involving 1,000 to 10,000 users. They are also creating “Catapults”, which are a series of Smart City innovation centres with a combination of incubation, demo developments, etc.

The US through US Ignite is funding cities in a targeted way too: $40 million for the best autonomous vehicle support program which Columbus won, and clustered gigabit cities are just two examples.

The point of all this is governments are being strategic and supporting market development where the funds will then flow through to the technology companies and others to solve and implement the new systems. Those companies are then going out and competing in the global Smart City market with support from great customers back home as references. This is different from ignoring market development with its flow-through of funds to suppliers and trying to “push” by focusing the funding on suppliers and letting them figure out the markets.

There is a real advantage to government policy that supports our cities. Our cities account for +80% of our people, our GDP and our innovation. The UK and the US have it figured out and so have China, India and the small guys like Estonia, Hong Kong, (30 gigabit per second community network development … 1,000 times faster than in Canada) and Singapore too.

We have great Islands of Excellence upon which to build. Four years ago “the other guys” started funding their cities for these 21st century opportunities. We need national determination to turn innovation words into action and cities is where the action can be magnified many times.