Coming together for Ontario’s digital future

THINK: Open 2017 a huge success for our growing innovative community 

Last week, we held our annual conference for our community of users, partners and friends—ORION THINK 2017.

Bringing together many of our diverse member groups—IT leaders, researchers, educators, librarians and policy makers to name just a few—THINK is both a conference and a get-together for our community.

Our much-heralded conference is always a huge opportunity to learn, meet and catch up. I am still recovering from all the great presentations, discussions and networking at the event.

This year’s theme was ‘open’ and explored its impact on our organizations. What are the advantages of open? How to address its inherent security issues? How do we prepare our organizations for an open future?

As Pavel Richter, CEO of Open Knowledge Foundation, said during an insightful afternoon panel, open is a process and not a file or database—it’s a way of seeing and doing.

I learned that open, as a way of collaboratively working together, is changing the world. School boards, universities, colleges, research institutes, libraries—and even slowly but surely, all levels of government—are embracing it.

The future really is open, collaborative and digital.

A few THINK 2017 Highlights:

  • Peter Singh, CIO, Toronto District School Board, talked about how internal and external collaboration is key for new learning in program content and delivery. As part of a panel formed by ORION’s Advisory Groups, he joined a great discussion on the innovative opportunities of ‘open’ initiatives. Our newly formed Advisory Groups will be helping us navigate our collective future.
  • David Rotenberg, Manager of Scientific Computing and Research Informatics at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and his panel colleagues showed why advances in medical research are increasingly reliant on Advanced Research Computing to share, organize, and analyse multi-modal datasets across institutions.
  • Mary O’Farrell Bowers, Vice President, Academic at Canadore College, and her colleagues at Confederation and Northern colleges talked about how with their three partners—Boreal, Cambrian and Sault colleges—became collaborators instead of competitors in overcoming perennial challenges of higher-education program delivery in Northern Ontario.
  • Andrés Dorado, Business Analytics Program Manager at the City of Edmonton, showcased why Edmonton is Canada’s “most open city”, having formally adopted an Open City Policy that supports an open-by-default approach to data availability.
  • Our three 2017 ORION Leadership Award winners were announced, too. I’m still impressed with how the winners used our digital infrastructure to pioneer intensely collaborative projects, including an international network to computationally model a fully functioning human brain.

Beyond these conference highlights, I had multiple discussions over the course of the day that drove home the hunger for collaboration that defines ORION’s community.

Through these conversations, I heard an enormous interest in the potential impact we can collectively have if we speak with one voice about Ontario’s digital future—especially over the next 12 months leading up to Ontario’s next provincial election.

I’m eager to capitalize on this energy, and I’m looking forward to spending the coming weeks and months consulting with many of you to co-create a shared vision for the steps required to make our province a global leader in digital infrastructure and innovation.

ORION will also be improving our network and security offerings, enhancing our service delivery, and expanding our reach to both urban and rural populations, including northern and indigenous communities.

As THINK clearly showed, the future of Ontario’s innovation economy is wide open. 

I look forward to seeing all of you again next year!

Alfonso Licata, President and CEO, ORION