Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Canadian Telecom Summit Highlights

Yesterday I attended the long-running Canadian Telecom Summit here in Toronto, and it was time well spent. This is their 14th year, and founders Mark Goldberg and Michael Sone have made CTS hands-down the best industry event for our space. Canada has several small events - I'll be speaking at one of them later this week (see my blog tomorrow) - but this is the only one I know of that draws from across the industry.

My schedule is too messy right now to stay for the full event, but there was plenty of great content from Day 1, and if you didn't catch my live tweets yesterday, here are the highlights that resonated for me.

Nitin Kawale, President of Enterprise Business at Rogers
Following a long run at Cisco Canada, Nitin seems the right man for this role at Rogers, and his messaging was spot on for getting CTS underway. He spoke passionately about the need to for businesses to invest in today's communications technologies - not just to enrich Rogers and his ex-employer - but to make employees more productive and better at collaboration, especially under the guise of being customer-centric. These are familiar themes in the UC space, but his focus was on tying this on a broader scale, where all these gains roll up to make our economy stronger, which in turn gives us a better standard of living. Noble intentions, but he really hit on the underlying holdback - businesses cannot drive innovation by continuing to support and invest in legacy technology, especially fixed line telephony. No argument there.

Here's Nitin in conversation with Mark Goldberg after his talk.

Big Data and Analytics panel
No photo here, but the speakers did a great job framing the issues in a balanced manner. David Ritter from Boston Consulting Group set the stage by breaking down these concepts, explaining why they matter and translating all this into business value. If you don't have a handle on these ideas, then you really don't understand what all the fuss is about.

Also of note was Ann Cavoukian's discussion about her Privacy by Design framework. I've written about her work in the Smart Grid space and was glad to see her in this environment. Basically, the heads-up for carriers is to understand that privacy is a give-and-take issue with consumers. Providers need to be transparent, which means they must articulate how they treat privacy, but also in language consumers will understand. Equally important is the need to "embed privacy in advance" - to be proactive and not do it after the fact. Otherwise, we get the unintended consequences of privacy breaches that everyone dreads.

Cybersecurity panel
Another solid group session with speakers from Radware, Juniper, Bell, Telus and KPMG. Familiar messaging overall for me, but lots of prime examples showing how businesses are still falling way short. Juniper's Paul Obsitnik talked about the need for a holistic approach, not just for getting the right technologies in place, but also educating employees about the threats as well as the role they have to play to mitigate them. Amplifying that, Bell's Vivek Khindria talked about the "human firewall being your first line of defense". I couldn't agree more.

David Bray, CIO of the FCC
Regulation and telecom policy has always been a hallmark of CTS, and David Bray provided a great perspective, not just about U.S. realities, but also global issues arising from the growing impact of the Internet. Cybersecurity is very real in his world, and noted that for the Department of Defense, 85% of incoming email is spam. These threats are accelerating as the Web proliferates, and he noted that the 2014 tally of globally networked devices will double from 7 billion to 14 billion by the end of 2015. The magnitude is getting really hard to grasp now, and his bigger concern is the borderless nature of these technologies.

Governments at all levels - but especially federal/national - will have a harder time being effective, not just to provide public service, but to protect citizens and government itself from cybercrime, which seems to evolve at a faster pace than anyone knows how to address. His overall theme of finding "terra firma" was pretty powerful, as the Web has long stopped being a fun place to explore and learn without thinking twice. With so little safe ground out there, we risk seeing the Web turned into a lawless no-man's land, and right now, it's hard to see if this Pandora's Box can ever be made right again. Kinda bleak, but very engaging stuff.

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