One of the biggest buzzwords these days is Big Data. Sometimes it can feel like everyone, especially large tech companies, know everything about us – from who our friends are to what kinds of products we’d like to buy. I used to work in this world, for a company that managed the largest database of consumer transactions in Europe. That meant we really did know everything about everyone – well, at least the customers of this one particular supermarket.
Now, as the Manager of Research & Analysis at the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC), I am faced with the opposite challenge – how to obtain the most basic economic and city level data to answer the most basic questions. How many jobs are in Vancouver? What sectors are growing? How much investment is going into our companies? Instead of analysing data, my job is much more about generating our own data and seeking out other sources of relevant data to answer these questions.
The Federal Government, and specifically Statistics Canada, has a key role to play in filling this gap. Like most Canadians, I am delighted about the return of the Long Form Census, which gives us vital data on the health of our economy and our city. It also gives us the opportunity to collect new sources of data – data about some of the most promising, emerging sectors of the economy. That’s why the VEC and some key partners recently wrote a letter to the new government in Ottawa requesting data on what some think is Canada’s fastest growing sector, Clean Tech.
What gets measured, gets managed
Why does it matter that this data is collected? The adage still holds true – what gets measured, gets managed – and we really need to manage the industries that are fundamental to the long-term health of the local and national economy, and ultimately the health of our planet.
So that’s why we’re even more delighted that our request for Clean Tech data was granted. Over $2 million dollars has now been allocated by the Federal Government for 2016 for relevant agencies to “monitor the contributions this sector is already making to the Canadian economy” by enhancing data collection.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get
We’ll never know whether this was something that would have happened anyway (after years of efforts by the VEC, and many others), or whether our letter was the final push. Either way, it demonstrates the importance of always seeking out, and sometimes advocating for, new sources of data. Now we’re going to gain some invaluable insights on what many believe, and haven’t been able to confirm, is Canada’s fastest growing sector. Policymakers and others, like the VEC, will then be able to use those insights to make the best possible evidence-based decisions to support this critical sector. That’s a huge win for Vancouver, as well as Canada.
James Raymond is the Manager of Research & Analysis at the Vancouver Economic Commission. In this role, he works to create and synthesize the best sources of data to provide insight and inform investors, media, influential business leaders and the wider public about the state of Vancouver’s economy. A graduate of one of Europe’s Top 10 Business Schools, he emigrated to Canada in 2008 where he is now a citizen. He has a background in qualitative and quantitative research & marketing gained through 15+ years experience working in public, private and non-profit sectors for leading-edge organisations such as PA Consulting, Talkback Television, New South Wales Government and Dunnhumby where he notably project managed Europe’s largest targeted weekly marketing activity. He is passionate about truly sustainable economic development, and strives to establish Vancouver as a role model for other cities and regions to follow.