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Technology drives skills. It does so by creating new industries from semiconductors to software and reshaping long established industries from banking to retailing. In a very real sense, technology is the economy: the prevailing division and organization of labour.
The tightly interwoven nature of technology and the economy lies at the heart of this Wireless Technology Roadmap for the Information and Communications Technology Council. Technology drives over 80 percent of economic growth. This report is a pioneering effort to apply some of the most recent research findings to model the process of technological evolution. The bottom line is to apply this model to better understand the skills required in the new wireless landscape that will unfold over the coming decade.
Traditional roadmaps have focused on technology. A classic example is The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). Its forecast of technology trends serves to guide industry efforts in resolving critical challenges to the performance of integrated circuits.
This roadmap is different. It examines technology in the broader context of its applications. While technology is a powerful change driver, its impact is moderated, indeed constrained, by broad social, political and economic forces. For example, the most immediate is regulation, a legacy from the earlier era of radio broadcasting — shortchanging new spectrum needs in favour of long established ones. Another is investment in advanced network technologies, constrained by the adverse impact on the balance sheets of the large public companies that provide wireless cellular telephony services. A third is the relatively slow evolution of software engineering that is central in providing much of the advanced functionality that is increasingly expected of wireless applications.
To understand the broad sweep of technology develop-ments, we have relied on world data: wireless is a global industry in which Canada represents a small part of world output. However, the specific wireless applications that are the focus of this study were selected by the steering committee on the basis of their expected contribution to Canadian GDP growth, their strategic importance and our national capabilities relative to competition. A series of regional focus groups with over 100 stakeholders from industry, post-secondary education and government examined the selected applications in detail to understand the practical realities and the skills required to exploit the ongoing advances in wireless.
Those skills are much broader than those normally associated with wireless. In particular, software engineering is a powerful theme that cuts across the selected applications of Intelligent Transportation Systems, Wireless Systems Integration and Mobile Multiplayer Gaming. Indeed, software is a major factor in many key developments in wireless. Equally important are skills like business and communications, reflecting profound structural changes driven by globalization — like the predominance of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Canada's ICT industry and the increasing integration of larger players into multinational networks.
The global wireless industry, dominated by the half-trillion US$ business of wireless cellular telephony has entered a long period of steady single-digit growth that will see increasing emphasis on process (versus product) innovation and more reliance on inputs like software to drive value creation. This is coupled with the growing role of marketing and distribution as starring actors in the value chain and the related transition of technology to a supporting role. This poses challenges for a Canadian skills response — traditionally strong in S&T and R&D but weaker in marketing and commercialization — the areas that will be at the forefront of the global evolution of wireless over the next two decades.
The technology roadmap model and the skills requirements that it details provide a comprehensive framework to help shape a strategic plan to address the wireless industry's skills needs. Indeed, the work has already begun, with a stakeholders' meeting convened by ICTC on May 15, 2007, validating the roadmap model, the skills identified as central to meeting the challenge along with further discussion of actions to be taken as a result. An effective Canadian response is in the making.
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