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Reach for the Cloud - Toronto

Investment in Cloud computing can drive social as well as technical innovation

My 'day job' is to help IT service providers master the new Cloud Computing age, to create and sell a portfolio of next generation products that the technology enables.

Although this is a very technical area, it's actually the theme of this site, of Social Innovation, that actually provides the best context for how to do this.

Cloud-enabled Innovation

One of the most basic but important functions of marketing new technologies is that you align to the business needs of your customers, not just the IT folks. In the case of government this means focusing more on policies and political challenges and less on virtualization.

To this end the most relevant government policy area is 'Open Government' - This technology goes hand in hand with enabling new open source methods of working and thinking, and provides the most compelling benefits for its adoption. A recent white paper I wrote explores this in much more detail - Open Government Innovation, The Case for Microsoft Cloud Computing.

In a nutshell this document says that as well as efficiency cost-savings, the real business benefit of Cloud computing is that it can accelerate more Social Innovation.

Social Innovation - Utopian Socialism

Before leaving for Canada Tami and I lived in Lanarkshire, Scotland, where she worked in the social enterprise field. This area has a history of Social Innovation that goes back to the 18th century! A small town in the region, New Lanark, was home to the 'Utopian Socialism' work of Robert Owen, which broke new ground in terms of setting standards for those in poverty employed into factory work.

Over 200 years later and we still have this same rich/poor disparity where many are still at similar levels of economic poverty, despite our wonderful technologies, business successes and riches for some.

So we still need ongoing progress of this type of reinvention of how business and government works, with Social Innovation being the headline theme for how to do so. For Braveheart fans Lanark is also where William Wallace first fought with the English to begin his campaign, and it's some of this spirit we need in the mix too!

Reach for the Cloud - Toronto

We can also look to Canada and Toronto for examples of leadership, and also challenges, of this modern day equivalent. Toronto hosts the pioneering Social Innovation Centre, and the Federal government has highlighted the potential of Social Innovation to policy makers in this research, but as this report shows there isn't really enough uptake or progress.

"The report highlights the urgency of the social challenges before us, such as climate change, sustainability, poverty and globalization, particularly in the midst of a global economic downturn, and points to the importance of fostering SI as a solution."

Canada is also struggling in terms of general innovation, scoring a 'D' on this against the other highly competitive global nations. In short political policy leadership is lacking in terms of the scale of adoption of new technologies and their application to key new idea areas like Social Innovation, and the key value of technologies like Cloud Computing is it offers this potential for scaling capacity.

This would be a 'double whammy' of a program, because it would also grow more technology industry development as well as scaling social innovation, tackling both of these issues.

Therefore one idea we're trying out to help is our 'Reach for the Cloud' program. I have started to recruit a board of advisors of Cloud Computing experts from heavyweight organizations like Oracle, who will provide analysis and coaching to new start-ups in this field. Like a Dragons Den for Cloud Ventures kinda thing. Now that we're in Toronto we'd like to begin the program here, so we're looking for partners, Cloud experts and of course, entrepreneurs and business plans...

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