Why Canada? Developing a Digital Education Industry
Educational institutions continue to increase their reliance on technology to fulfil their core obligations. These investments over the last few decades form the foundation of what will be a significant industry in the 21st century - and an opportunity for nations that have the means and imagination to capitalise on it.
Ed-tech will bring employment and tax revenue, just as is the case in any other industry. But this is no ordinary industry: successful development of an ed-tech industry will attract highly-skilled, highly paid labour, build the nation's capacity to innovate in its own education providers, and support an increasingly important social institution.
Not all nations are equally prepared to develop a strong ed-tech industry. We believe Canada is particularly well-positioned for growth.
Four qualities in Canada are especially well-suited:
Strong Education Brand
A historically strong investment by Canadian governments, better than average working conditions for educators, and high-rankings in comparative studies (e.g. OECD Education Reports) have helped cement the global reputation of Canadian education.
Developing, testing, and implementing successful ed-tech products benefit public and private working collaboratively. Ed-tech industry is littered with failed ventures that were designed without a sufficient appreciation of unique culture and processes of (largely) public educational institutions. Canada has a long history of bridging the public-private divide through, for example, crown corporations, but also via university-corporate partnerships - particularly in the sciences.
"In Canada, startups and corporations have realized that poaching the best academics strangles the future supply of talented graduates, as well as the flow of good ideas. Instead, they are creating partnerships with universities that enable technology-focused researchers to operate with one foot in industry and one in academia." (Source).
The availability of investment capital in Canada, once decrepit, is improving quickly. A 2016 report identified Toronto as the fourth best source of investment capital in North America (Source).
Education and Media
As education learns how to better leverage high-end instructional media for teaching and learning, we anticipate educational media will become an important component of the larger ed-tech industry. Despite its small population, Canada has a substantial media industry (advertising, film, music, animation, and television) due, in part, to outsourcing to Canada by the huge US media industry.
Of course, potential counts for very little. Educational institutions, start-up incubators, and centres of R&D (e.g. MaRS) need to improve their understanding of the opportunities in the growing ed-tech industry, how business and education can work together, and learn to translate this knowledge into intelligent and sustained efforts. We’ll continue to watch this space and update you as it develops.
By Keith Christopher Hampson PhD