As the president of a company that falls into the SME category, I have witnessed significant change in the Canadian and global geomatics marketplace. I also note that Canadian companies face considerable challenges and opportunities in this changing geomatics business ecosystem.
Changes in federal government policies and funding have also had an adverse effect on geomatics companies in international markets. For example, by limiting involvement of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in the Industrial Cooperation Program, Canadian geomatics companies are no longer funded by CIDA to undertake feasibility studies in developing countries. These feasibility studies provided companies with first-hand knowledge of geomatics services that would be required in the future and gave them somewhat of a competitive advantage going forward. An end to government funding of the GEOIDE program means there is no longer a dedicated geomatics Network Centre of Excellence (NCE) to work with industry and government to develop innovative commercial capacity.
Data availability is another factor; for example, the United States federal and state governments have implemented policies that make data available at no charge. This has enabled start-up companies to develop new applications. While the Government of Canada is committed to open data, this is not true across the board for other levels of government in Canada.
I think that to be able to gain a competitive advantage at home and abroad, the private sector must immediately begin to invest heavily into R&D to spur innovation. This means that government, the federal government in particular must take corresponding action to:
maintain its responsibility for delivering foundation datasets.
I believe that the Canadian private sector has recognized the dramatic market shifts of the past several years. To succeed, geomatics businesses need to focus strategically on specialized value-added location information services for both consumer and business markets instead of dwindling government projects.
I would argue that there is a need for a united, strong and proactive industry and a professional organisation that will engage government and influence it to initiate programs for data acquisition that will allow industry and others to participate and offer value-added products and services.
I believe that there are opportunities in identifying those markets that large players (such as Microsoft and Google) cannot serve, and to become suppliers of choice for authoritative data services and accompanying, innovative, applications.
What do you think?
- Anthony (Tony) Sani is the President of Sani-International Technology Advisors Inc. (a Canadian surveying, mapping and consulting company) and a steering committee member of the CGCRT.