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BlackBerry CEO Chen says some things need to change for tech in Canada

BlackBerry CEO
John Chen

BlackBerry CEO John Chen says the Canadian government is on the right track in proposing a digital charter to help protect individual privacy rights.

But while BlackBerry (BlackBerry Stock Quote, Chart TSX:BB) has gained attention in recent years for remodeling itself as a software and security company, Chen thinks that the federal government still needs a policy shift in order to allow Canadian companies like his to prosper in the new data-driven economy.

Last month, the federal government unveiled its plans for a digital charter to hold data-based companies accountable for how they use citizens’ personal information and data, and while no indications have so far been made that companies like Facebook and Google are about to be put under a stricter regulatory framework, the charter does attempt to shift the conversation towards how companies need to do a better job at gaining the trust of both the government and citizens.

“We must find a way of protecting that data while still being open to the economic opportunities of a data-driven world. Our competitiveness depends on it,” says Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, in the government’s online presentation of the charter.

Bains has also gone so far as to single out BlackBerry as a player in the space, saying, “Whether it’s protecting the data generated by the IoT connected world, or guarding government secrets, BlackBerry has earned its reputation as an industry leader in security and privacy.”

Earlier this month, Chen and BlackBerry put their support behind Canada’s push for a digital charter but the CEO still has reservations about Canada’s competitiveness in the new economy.

“Canada has an enormous amount of technical capability and BlackBerry benefits from this. There are many, many talented people, schools, universities and think tanks that have very good skills, especially in the AI area and cybersecurity area, so I think that Canada will be extremely competitive,” said Chen on Thursday in conversation with BNN Bloomberg.

“[But] I’d like to see a few things change on the policy side. There are a whole bunch of policies, especially related to tax and cross-border taxation that seem to favour the old manufacturing days, elements that could improve,” he says. “I think we treated cross-border spending and profit coming from hardware versus coming from software a little differently in Canada, and I have been vocal about that issue. I think that those need to change also.”

Earlier this month, BlackBerry’s share price got a bump on news that the company’s Government Mobility Suite platform got the go-ahead from the US Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, a stamp of approval that carries a lot of weight when it comes to enterprise security and privacy.

Chen says his company is well-placed to prosper in today’s business environment.

“The data economy is real and that is going to dominate how we live and operate for the future. A big part of that has to do with security and privacy and the fact that we at BlackBerry have devoted so much of our resources in technology in this market to establish a trusting communication, I think we have a long-lasting value for our shareholders,” he said.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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