Cybera is looking for the movers and shakers of Alberta; the ones who are using emerging technologies to innovate their fields and raise the profile of Albertan research and development. Once a month, we will sit down with one of these tech gurus to get a perspective on where they, and their industry, are heading.
This month, we spoke with Clark Ferguson. Clark is the Chief Information Officer with the University of Lethbridge, and has years of experience in information systems management at public, private and not-for-profit organizations. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Ottawa and P.Eng from the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario.
Cybera: What is your favourite book or movie about technology and why?
When I think about reading and technology, the most interesting paper that I’ve read recently is “Strategizing: The challenges of a practice perspective.” It was written by researchers studying the theme of Strategy as Practice at Lancaster University. What I really like about it is how it describes three aspects of what people do to create strategies. The processes they describe are very compelling to me, as I see a direct application for universities that are addressing their own disruptive changes, such as the emergence of Internet-based alternatives [like iTunesU, online-only campuses, and institutions such as Harvard and MIT offering online courses for a nominal fee].
Cybera: In three sentences or less, what would you say is uniquely Albertan when it comes to technology and innovation?
I think what’s really exciting in Alberta is that we’ve built on the strength we developed in the resource sector, and have augmented and expanded it towards health, education, and innovation. I’m excited about how the province is diversifying and bringing technology into all aspects of our communities.
Cybera: How do you think technology could or should make Alberta stronger?
I believe that technology was traditionally only in the hands of the people who had deep pockets and large resources. But in the last five years, technology has been commoditized and exposed. It is now available in smaller communities to people in their homes, with much greater sophistication. What’s really exciting for me is how technology can now reach out to impact rural areas and small towns as much as it does large urban centres, which is helping them contribute to this emerging information economy. It’s also exciting to see technology being used on farms around Alberta, such as using satellite imagery to support variable irrigation and fertilization, to become more competitive and adaptable.
Cybera: Are there obstacles or barriers preventing the above?
Our academic and research institutions and processes have been built to support independent, regional delivery. So a big obstacle is that our systems are designed to support these independent organizations while they try to develop new solutions, and yet the future really is about very large-scale collaboration. So I think the opportunity that comes from organizations that can bridge those gaps, like Cybera, in terms of helping us to expand our reach is very important for Albertans.
Cybera: If you could sit down and speak with any mentor, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Early on a gentleman named Larry Kayser mentored me. He was a senior leader at Bell who suggested I read a paper by Gordon P. Thompson titled: “Memo from Mercury: Information Technology is Different.” This paper was published 30 years ago and speaks about the leadership opportunity for Canada related to communications technology. The paper is still relevant today as we consider the information economy which has emerged. I would really enjoy another conversation with Larry to discuss what he thinks is next, because he was such a forward thinker.
This is the sixth interview in this series. This past January, Cybera spoke to Chris Turner, an author, journalist and public speaker who covers climate change and sustainability issues. In February, we interviewed DJ Sures, a roboticist and entrepreneur in Calgary. Michelle Sklar, Vice President, Industry Relations with Poynt Corporation, and President, Board of Directors at Digital Alberta, was our subject for March. In April, we spoke to Angie Tarasoff, Senior Manager of Technology Planning and Management at Alberta Education. Tom Ogaranko of Redengine was our featured interview in May. In June, we spoke to Trevor Doerksen, CEO and Founder of Mobovivo. If you have any suggestions for potential candidates you’d like to see featured, please comment below or send us an email.