Economic Transformation in Alberta

I have been keenly (more concerned than keen actually) aware of the dramatic shifts that are happening in the Alberta economy, especially in the “big engine”, oil and gas sectors from exponential technologies.

This graph from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows what has been happening in to the pace of information technology evolution compared to industrial revolution technology. But there is so much more going on.  Are we ready…nope!

The impacts of autonomous vehicles is already happening in the oil sands as Suncor and others are actively converting the big trucks to driver-less models.  Drones are becoming common on industrial construction and pipeline work.  Robotic is normal for many progressive manufacturers in Alberta already and bound to expand.

Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning is catching on and will impact just about every aspect of our economy and lives.  The business-as-usual mindset of many logistics and manufacturing sector operations are going to be overwhelmed by the impact of 3D Printing.  That is just a top of the wave summary of a much deeper issue with many challenges and opportunities.

We often hear that diversification of our economy is the key to surviving these exponential transformational pressures. So who is on top of this? You might be surprised how much the Alberta Federation of Labour is in the forefront.  They get it!  Here are their three key messages for adapting to the new reality.

What Skills and Where?

We need to invest in skills – but not just the old-economy skills.  We need people who can work with robots and on them.  We need a workforce with adaptive skills like critical thinking, decision-making, information processing and working in collaborative teams.

Infrastructure – but Different

We need to invest in more infrastructure but beyond roads and bridges.  We need to get high-speed internet to every Albertan and a major economic development priority.  The Internet of Things has already taken over with the dominance of sensor technology.

We need to adapt our infrastructure to the changing supply networked economy.  Think of all the parking lots, garages, tire shops, car dealers, body repair shops and shopping centres we will not need with autonomous vehicles available on demand.

Diversification

Yes within our oil and gas industry but beyond.  We need to move our oil industry beyond burning fossil fuels.  Same is true for natural gas but there is so much more we can make and manufacture from that resource too.  Then there is geothermal and geohydro potential looking at converting the thousands of drilling sites we have tha may be converted to absolutely clean power.

Then there is the high and clean tech potential we have that is often joint ventures with industry and post-secondaries.  Productivity and Innovation are diversification tools too as we advance our international competitiveness to attract the best and brightest to work here.

Next Alberta?

There is good new and bad new for the Next Alberta.  The good news is we have all the tools and talent to create and capture the opportunities inherent the exponential changes coming at us.  The bad news is we can’t wait to see where the changing trend is going and then try to catch up…we have to change our mindset to be the disruption not the disrupted.

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