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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I've been online since 1971 and I like to smoothe the way for everyone else. Among other things I co-founded Sympatico, the world's first easy-to-use Internet service (and Canada's largest).

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Upcoming meeting with ICT Toronto

For those of you in Toronto, there is an interesting conversation taking place about ICT Toronto, an organization established to “improve the long-term competitiveness of the Toronto Region’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector so that it continues to be a leading source of employment and wealth creation”. ICT Toronto was established months ago and because there is no publicly visible indication of progress, concerns have been raised by a couple of people prominent in the TorCamp community: see blog posts by Joey deVilla and Mark Kuznicki. If you’re in Toronto and have an interest in this, please comment either here or, preferably, on those two other blogs which are far more popular than this one.

Mark has arranged an October 5th meeting between ICT Toronto and members of the TorCamp community, and I’ll be there. Below is my suggestion for what ICT Toronto could do. It’s based on my assumption that ICT-T is taking the typical business-booster approach and trying to attract companies to locate here. While I have nothing against encouraging a company to open an R&D centre here employing 1000 people, this neglects the small companies which I believe are crucial to achieving ICT-T’s goals, particularly now that in a Web 2.0 world a company often doesn’t need to be as big as it did earlier.

I suggest that ICT Toronto take a two-track approach that addresses the needs of the small separately from those of the large.

Specifically, ICT-T could create workspace(s) in good location(s) where very small ICT businesses could operate and share ideas and egg each other on, including the single-person outfits who currently work in isolation at home or in coffee shops. Obvious locations are the King/Spadina new-media zone and Liberty Village (perhaps starting with the latter, where there is reasonably cheap space available quickly). This would be an type of space. It would be somewhat similar to the existing Toronto Business Development Centre and MaRS Incubator, but those are pretty full already, and the new space would have some key differences:
- it would be specific to ICT businesses;
- it would provide only office and meeting/kitchen space (one TBDC tenant is a martial arts centre, while the MaRS Incubator's first listed feature is "Private outfitted wet labs with fume hoods, R.O. water, vacuum, benching, emergency power and MillQ"); and
- it wouldn't spend any money on training programs or advisory services (part of the idea being that businesses could help each other much more because they're working in roughly the same area).

If ICT-T did that, it would not only create a launchpad for ICT businesses but a launchpad for itself: a dialogue space where it could get some quick feedback on its ideas and activities, and enthusiastic input too, instead of creating plans in a semi-vacuum and sending them off in hopes of getting something back. Ideally ICT-T itself would locate there, instead of in relative isolation at City Hall or wherever. Furthermore, creating such a workspace would give ICTT a visible accomplishment much faster than ambitious larger-scale projects would; if ICT-T doesn't do something soon it risks fading into obscurity.

Comments welcome.


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