By Tyson Johnson 

 

The provincial election has us thinking about priorities for the future, and cybersecurity should be at the top of any party’s economic growth strategy. Cybersecurity is already booming in New Brunswick and is poised to play a much more significant role in our provincial economy, with future job prospects in the thousands and a push to be the national cybersecurity epicentre underway.

National epicentre, you say?

 

Yes. This is a realistic goal backed by a strong track record.

 

While the idea of New Brunswick as a national digital leader may challenge your perception of our economy as one rooted in natural resources and energy, cybersecurity isn’t a promising pipe dream. It’s already proven by years of strategic growth.

 

And if you think cybersecurity is only for techies or is the stuff of blockbuster thrillers about international hackers or the dark web, think again.

 

We all live with cybersecurity every day. Life as we know it would grind to a halt without it.

 

For society to be functional and successful, our digital world must be safe and dependable. Of course, COVID-19 has made us all more aware of our digital dependence, from ordering groceries online to Zoom meetings and e-learning for students.

 

Beyond keeping us safe on e-commerce sites and social media, cybersecurity enables every aspect of society, including protecting critical infrastructure such as our public services, utilities, financial systems and transportation networks.

 

As we move ever more online, opportunities in cybersecurity continue to multiply.

 

Meanwhile, traditionally stable sectors are shaky. The price of oil is in flux. The push for clean energy has hurt mining. Geopolitics impedes international trade. The steady flow of predictable revenues has slowed, at times, to a trickle.

 

The flood of opportunity has moved online. The future is digital. And it needs cybersecurity to keep it operational and safe from cyberattacks.

 

New Brunswick is perfectly positioned for this shift.

 

All those young people leaving the province? Cybersecurity can keep them here for their education– and their careers.

 

As an example, The University of New Brunswick, Université de Moncton and the New Brunswick Community College have created programs that align with cybersecurity job opportunities.

 

These graduates are in high demand in a sector with almost no unemployment and a massive talent gap forecast. With an average salary of over $80,000, high-paying cybersecurity jobs let graduates build extraordinary lives and careers right here.

 

Beyond locals, cybersecurity is a golden opportunity to recruit students worldwide, along with workers, researchers and businesses.

 

In fact, this is already happening because New Brunswick has many natural advantages that position our province as a national and international cybersecurity leader. 

 

We’re home to critical infrastructures such as a nuclear power plant, oil refinery, deepwater seaports, massive local multinationals and large third-party logistics carriers.

 

On the tech side, we’ve got significant dark fibre and internet connectivity. We have strong applied-research institutions and a vertically integrated health-care system. A Smart Grid Innovation Network is already in place. A Digital Health Innovation District is in the works for Saint John. NBCC and UdeM have artificial intelligence and machine learning centres of excellence. And we’re close to leading institutions like Harvard and MIT.

 

Add in global firms with operations here, including the IBM Global Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity and the Siemens Global Centre of Competence in Cybersecurity. Not to mention a low cost of living and a high quality of life.

 

The result? A uniquely powerful set of advantages that aren’t easily replicated or matched even with economic incentives.

 

To build on this momentum, we need to keep investing in infrastructure, such as the Cyber Centre in Fredericton, a high-security facility where stakeholders will co-locate, collaborate and innovate.

 

We need to keep building our capacity, including more public and private funding for research and development, supportive policy, and government and business partnerships to incubate start-ups and court world-class players. We need to support a public education system adapting to digital learning and embracing cybersecurity curriculum. We also need incentives to attract top companies and talent. Let’s keep investing in new companies, intellectual property and exports.

 

If we keep building on our incredible momentum, New Brunswick is ready to take our rightful place as Canada’s epicentre for cybersecurity.

 

Tyson Johnson is CEO of CyberNB, a non-profit organization with headquarters in Fredericton.

 

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