CWTA President and CEO, Robert Ghiz Delivers Keynote at Drug Information Association (DIA) Annual Meeting, Ottawa

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Robert Ghiz, CWTA President & CEO
Keynote Address: Transformation through Collaboration
Drug Information Association Annual Meeting
Ottawa, ON, October 30, 2018
9:15 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Good morning, everyone. It truly is a pleasure to be here with you today to talk about how the CWTA members are helping to facilitate transformative and collaborative changes across our great country.

The CWTA is the authority on wireless issues, developments and trends in Canada. We represent wireless operators, as well as companies that develop products and services for the wireless industry, and therefore have the unique ability to bring various people, companies and groups together to affect positive change.

I would like to start off by talking about the Canadian wireless industry in general – how it has driven and continues to drive innovation, and how it has done this in an environment that is heavily influenced and regulated by public policy makers.

Canada’s current wireless industry is a tremendous success story. And it is a success story that is built on the strength, reach and performance of our advanced wireless networks, networks which extend across Canada’s vast geography from coast to coast and now reach nearly every single person who calls this nation home.

These wireless networks are the foundation of our success story because they offer fast and reliable mobile wireless connectivity to approximately 99% of Canadians. Yes, you heard that right. The current generation of wireless technology, known as LTE (or 4G), is, right now at this very moment, available to 98.5% of all Canadians1. That means almost everyone, in every province and territory, has access to the fastest average download speeds in the G7, and speeds that are twice as fast as those available in the U.S.2

I know some of you might be skeptical about that number, but rest assured, it isn’t a figure I’ve pulled out of thin air. That is data taken directly from the CRTC, one of our most prominent regulatory agencies.

So that is the foundation of our wireless success story: The strength, reach and performance of our networks.

But as I just alluded to, it’s not a success story that we have written on our own. Our members work in an environment shaped by a number of regulatory agencies on a daily basis to achieve these results. I just referenced the CRTC, but that is far from the only regulatory body we work with.

Our members are subject to a wide assortment of regulations and actions by a variety of agencies, including Industry Canada, Health Canada, and Employment and Social Development Canada – just to name a few.

And that’s just at the federal level. We also interact with the jurisdictions of our provincial and territorial governments, many of whom have different sets of regulations which apply to the day-to-day business of our members.

And, of course, there are also municipal governments in communities big and small across Canada. No wireless antenna or cellular site can be installed without the proper planning permissions, and the processes surrounding that permission can vary in each community.

So, it goes without saying that this can be a challenging landscape for us to manage. But as professionals who work in health care, I’m confident it’s one that everyone here can relate to on some level.

And I can relate, too. Before I joined CWTA, my previous life was one of public service, serving as premier of the great province of Prince Edward Island. And health care was, of course, an important priority for our government – as it is for governments across Canada.

But it’s not always easy to make progress in Canadian health care. Yet, progress is taking place across the Country, and the ecosystem is evolving rapidly – innovative solutions are possible in regulated environments. Our ability to collaborate and achieve continued success should be a source of Canadian pride. You have ten provinces, with ten different premiers, representing the full spectrum of political parties. You have the federal government. You have different constitutional responsibilities. There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen – to say
the least.

From my own experience, despite all of those challenges, we made significant progress in PEI, and moved forward in a way that I was proud of.

As premier, I had the honour of co-chairing a health care innovation group with Brad Wall, who was the Premier of Saskatchewan at the time. Working with Brad, and consulting carefully with our colleagues across the country, we saw how important innovation was going to be for the future of our respective health care systems. And we recognized that there were crucial opportunities to be found and major goals to be achieved if we were willing to collaborate and work together successfully.

And that’s exactly what we did! Just one example of the success we achieved was the joint purchase of generic medications. By putting aside our differences and choosing instead to work together, Canada’s provincial governments were able to save millions of dollars while simultaneously improving health care outcomes for our citizens. We were able to transform our respective healthcare systems for the better, and we were able to do it because of our collaborative efforts – in fact we saved 100 million dollars for Canadians!

So, I have some experience finding success thanks to collaboration in the midst of a heavily regulated environment. And as I mentioned earlier, there are no shortage of regulations in telecommunications.

Now don’t get me wrong: I am not here today to decry any of this. I’m sure, like any group of businesses, our members might wish for slightly less regulation, and we do work with officials in Ottawa to try and help them find the right balance. But the fact remains that members of any industry – whether it’s healthcare or telecommunications or some other field – will inevitably have to cope with a great deal of regulatory scrutiny. So, the question then becomes: How do we do that, while still achieving transformational success?

There are many orthodox business thinkers who claim that regulatory activity blocks innovation and collaboration, every single time, without fail. But as I said earlier, the Canadian wireless industry is a success story. Wireless devices are an important and integral part of the lives of Canadians from coast to coast, and yet despite all of the regulatory hurdles we must clear, our powerful networks reach nearly every single one of them. So, success is possible. The device you’re holding in your hand right at this moment is proof of that.

Of course, our industry isn’t about to rest on its laurel. We have been home to a tremendous amount of innovation over the years, and even more is on the way. Yes, yet another wireless revolution is coming – and it’s coming faster than you might think.

At this very moment, we are on the cusp of a new mobile wireless revolution: The introduction of wireless networks referred to as fifth generation, or 5G, wireless networks.

To put it simply: 5G is revolutionary. Yes. Revolutionary. It will not only enhance our current use of mobile communications, but it will pave the way for new digital and data-driven businesses and services. There are very few sectors of the Canadian economy that will not be completely transformed by the introduction of 5G wireless networks – and that includes healthcare.

Le 5G est révolutionnaire. Non seulement viendra-t-il améliorer l’usage courant du sans-fil, mais il ouvrira la voie vers de nouveaux modèles d’affaires et de services numériques fondés sur les données. Que ce soit les transports, les ressources naturelles, le commerce de détail, le divertissement, la fabrication avancée, l’agriculture, les villes intelligentes ou les soins de santé, très peu de secteurs de l’économie canadienne ne se verront pas transformés par la mise en oeuvre des réseaux sans fil 5G.

We partnered with Accenture this past summer to take a closer look at what 5G networks could mean for Canada’s economy. In a report released just a few months ago, they estimated that the deployment of 5G networks will result in incremental annual GDP contribution to the Canadian economy of $40 billion by the year 2026. It will also add close to 250,000 permanent jobs over that same time frame.

But the report also examined a very specific example of how 5G can impact healthcare. Accenture explored the idea of a Connected Ambulance – where a continuous flow of data between the ambulance and the hospital would allow for improved workflow between the paramedics and the hospital staff, thereby resulting in better outcomes for patients.

Looking just at patient loads in Ontario, the study found that 5G technology could positively impact over 7,300 stroke patients every single year. The technology could also lead to reduced patients stays: If even 10% of patients see a reduction in the duration of their stays by 20%, it would result in savings of over $140 million for the public health system.

But that’s just one area where 5G can positively impact healthcare. Another example is helping develop technology that will combine powerful mobile communications and data applications with technology such as robotics – which can then be leveraged to help Canadians who live in remote and rural communities. So those are just a few examples of how the 5G revolution, when it comes, will allow for new innovation, right across Canada’s economy.

But how will we get there? With so many regulators, and so many levels of government, and so many different players, all of whom have so many different constitutional responsibilities… how can we possibly hope to actually get anything done?

Collaboration will be key. It’s what I saw when I was at the table with Canada’s other premiers, and it’s what I see today as the head of the CWTA. Success is possible. Positive results are achievable. The story of mobile wireless is one that shows innovation can happen in a highly regulated environment. But we must work together.

At the CWTA, we are currently working to lead a positive, collaborative dialogue with stakeholders through our 5G Canada Council. And as you leave this conference and continue contemplating the different advances which could transform Canadian health care – that would be my one simple piece of advice and encouragement: Always seek new and different ways to collaborate and work together for the common good. Not only will it move you forward in your respective fields, but it will benefit the lives of countless Canadians from coast to coast.

Je vous remercie de nous avoir invités à prendre la parole aujourd’hui.

– End of Remarks –

1 CRTC – Communications Monitoring Report – 2017
2 OpenSignal – State of LTE – Global – February 2018