The launch of the McKenna Institute at the University of New Brunswick is confirmation that the age of internetization has arrived in the province.
Internetization is a new word I’ve coined to describe the global outreach and electronic connectivity that empowers the 21st century.
COVID-19 underlined that internetization has become foundational to our existence. Millions of people worldwide resorted to digital connectivity to work from home and continue to function as a vibrant society.
In work, recreation, schooling and medical support, internetization became our lifeline in coping with the curve ball that the global pandemic threw at us.
Internetization is our pathway to a more prosperous future. Contemporary humanity requires digital capacity in order to survive and flourish in the age of internetization.
The mission of the McKenna Institute is to propel the province forward in the age of computer and digital technologies. It will do this by engaging academia, government and the private sector to enhance New Brunswick’s digital infrastructure, spearhead technological innovation and serve as a catalyst for electronic transformation.
It will aspire to transform New Brunswick into a digital trailblazer. It’s intended to help drive economic development and provincial prosperity and empower a globally competitive digital economy.
The institute will also serve as a facilitator for preparing the digital-savvy workforce of the future and as a magnet for attracting high-tech startups. The institute is intended to create jobs and prosperity in digital technology through electronic transformation. It will work with the faculty of Computer Science and the highly successful Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, both located on the campus of the University of New Brunswick.
The McKenna Institute has as its overarching mission to spawn new ideas, new technologies and new public policy directions.
The institute is named after former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, who had an illustrious career in several fields, including as a criminal lawyer, politician, diplomat and banker.
After obtaining a law degree from the University of New Brunswick, McKenna became a folk hero among Acadians for successfully defending local boxing champion Yvonne Durelle, who was charged with murder.
He served as premier from 1987 to 1997. During this period, I worked with McKenna on several economic, immigration and human rights files.
He later served as Canadian ambassador to the United States from 2005 to 2006 and is now deputy chairman of the Toronto-Dominion Bank.
McKenna’s successful, multitiered career reflects his strong work ethic, steely determination, legendary memory, and passion for building a better New Brunswick. The launch of this institute closes the circle on his single-minded focus on introducing technological innovation and digital empowerment in New Brunswick.
During his decade as premier, he launched a concerted effort to create a state-of-the-art infrastructure for wired technology. He lured thousands of jobs to New Brunswick through call centres and their reliance on up-to-date technology.
Premiers across Canada would shudder when told McKenna had landed in their province. They knew his mission was to lure their corporations to New Brunswick and make use of the province’s competitive edge in wired technology.
In the decades that followed, especially with the introduction of wireless technology, New Brunswick lost its pre-eminent position on the digital landscape. Its information technology infrastructure lost the corporate appeal it once had. As the science and technology for electronic connectivity advanced and improved, New Brunswick was left further behind.
It’s precisely these fault lines that the new institute is designed to address. It’s mandated to create a digital ecosystem that will catapult the province to the forefront of the myriad of new economic opportunities in the age of internetization.
The McKenna Institute has the overarching responsibility for being New Brunswick’s foremost change maker. It will pursue transformational change through the empowerment of internetization and the digital economy.
It will also help update the skills and technological competencies of young people for the workforce of tomorrow.
It’s expected to chart a bold and visionary course for New Brunswick’s economic growth.
Dr. Constantine Passaris is a Professor of Economics at the University of New Brunswick and a 2021 recipient of the Order of New Brunswick.
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