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Navigating innovation, privacy policies, and diversity in a tech-driven world

The mesh conference came back to Toronto after nearly a decade, diving into how digital transformation touches inclusivity, climate change, and marketing.



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While kicking off day one of the mesh conference, co-producer Chris Hogg remarked that “mesh is about people on the move.”

This is the second mesh conference of 2023 after nearly a decade-long hiatus, with the first occurring in Calgary in April. All mesh events follow the same format: no formal presentations or pay-to-play panels. The result is unique conversations about transformation and innovation with animated, real-time discussions. 

New and returning “meshies” filled the space, excited to take part in dialogues about how to interconnect business, media, technology, society, and marketing — and further, change how we think, organize, operate and behave in these spaces.

When digital policy is not revisited for decades, it’s important to prioritize the issues

Canada has been operating under the same privacy policy that was put in place in the early 2000s. Had we known the policy was going to be in place for nearly 25 years with little change, it would’ve been a different conversation, said Dr. Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa.

Tyler Chisholm, Clearmotive Marketing, Dr. Michael Geist, University of Ottawa

Geist came to mesh the day after testifying at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on Bill C-11, which will set out broadcasting policies in Canada. But Canadian news agencies are currently struggling with another barrier — since August 1, 2023, Meta platforms (namely, Facebook and Instagram) have banned sharing news in response to legislation demanding compensation for publishers. 

The government thought that Google and Meta were stealing their news, but Geist says that wasn’t the case — it’s users that are sharing links and driving traffic.

“This legislation’s been pretty disastrous,” said Geist. 

Now, smaller outlets that rely on their communities are feeling the pain with lost traffic, fewer publishing partners and decreased revenue with some websites even ceasing hiring or shutting down completely because they can’t afford to continue. 

“We need to listen to everyone and I don’t think that’s happening,” he said. They were trying to help legacy companies, but they’ve now put independent media at risk. 

Geist was also asked if Canada needs to move faster when defining digital policy. He called for more reflection and purposeful-thinking.

“On many of these issues, it is better to get it right than get it fast… There’s no first move advantage here,” he said. 

The fact that public safety is at the heart of many of the issues complicates discussions as everyone thinks about how we provide appropriate safeguards, but also preserve the right to free speech. As some policy consultations will continue in 2024, Geist encourages those with something to say not to miss their opportunity to be heard. 

“Don’t wait until it’s too late.”

Technology will be at the core of every business going forward

The second panel of the day was the mesh innovation showcase, which featured a mesh moment with recipient Christa Hill (Tacit Edge), Alicia Kalozdi MacMillan (mesh) and Amber Mac (AmberMac Media). 

The initiative recognizes innovation and digital transformation leaders from under-represented communities across Canada. People are encouraged to nominate someone they know since they’re much less likely to put their own name forward. 

“It’s not just for Apple. It’s not just for Google. It’s for you too,” notes Hill.

mesh day one

If you’re building a product for everyone, everyone should be involved

It’s long been acknowledged there is a gap in the tech industry when it comes to hiring women, particularly in non-entry level roles. So after repeatedly witnessing this shortcoming, Marissa McNeelands decided to co-found Toast, a talent agency focused on matching qualified women with technology positions. 

Women make up about 60% of graduates of STEM programs, but only 23% of the STEM workforce in Canada. Moreover, women often leave the tech industry around age 36 because there’s little opportunity for career advancement since they have more difficulty obtaining the requirements for leadership positions. 

Amber Mac, AmberMac Media, and Marissa McNeelands, Toast

To combat these issues, McNeelands advocates for mentorship and sponsorship. The burden of mentoring is often put on other women, but it’s just as important for men to mentor their women colleagues and sponsor them for promotions and leadership roles. 

The data shows that a more balanced team generates better results as companies can no longer rely on a single line of thought or single experiences. But McNeelands notes, “If you want a more diverse workforce, you have to put work into it.”

AI is a co-pilot

It would be impossible to have a discussion about AI without talking about the risks — but the panel discussion “AI, Creativity, and Inclusivity: Empowering Tomorrow’s Marketing Leaders” was primarily focussed on the benefits and opportunities it presents. 

Anne-Marie Enns from Global AI school Mia, hosted a casual conversation with Liberty White, CEO of CHOZEN MEDIA, Natalie Black, Mia, and Prieeyya Kaur Kesh, also of Mia. The panelists discussed applications of AI in marketing and skills training and one thing that was clear by the end: the human element of creation is still irreplaceable. 

There are many one-dimensional tasks, noted Kaur Kesh, and AI allows you to be more strategic and bring more humanity to your work versus being process-driven. Even now, as generative AI becomes more creative with image and video generation, the user still has the final call. AI isn’t going to be aware of the cultural nuances you are, so the need for human input is not going away.

“Never use [AI] as a replacement, but as a supplement,” she says.

Echoing this, Black notes the AI reacquaints us with our love of language and pushes the boundaries of human creativity. The brands that apply AI to productivity and efficiency are going to lose the ones who focus on experience, she says. 

Everyone now has access to the same design tools, so it’s leveling the playing field. Dismantling the system takes one step at a time, but Black says “you can’t dismantle it if you don’t know how it works. 

Anne-Marie Enns, Mia, Liberty White, CHOZEN MEDIA, Prieeyya Kaur Kesh, Mia, and Natalie Black, Mia

The people who have been doing this for a long time are now using AI to reach the masses, said White. But there are discrepancies in how the data is being collected and used, so it’s important to look at who is being included. It’s not just about the data, but the data’s context, she says.

Innovation is not moving mountains

Innovation has become a buzzword, but it’s the idea of coming up with new ideas and commodifying those ideas, said Council of Canadian Innovators’ Dana O’Born. It’s problem-solving complex issues, adds Tracey Bodnarchuk, CEO of Canada Powered by Women

Bodnarchuk’s organization surveyed women across Canada and their top priorities are: 

  1. Economic prosperity and affordable lifestyle
  2. Energy security
  3. Climate emissions reductions. 

“These are very polarized subjects, but that competitiveness comes right back to how we’re living,” she said. “People are done with the polarization of these issues – they expect government and industry to work together.” 

And the fact that they’re not, means we don’t currently have we don’t have the compromise that’s necessary to be competitive. 

Stuart MacDonald, Narrative Fund, Dana O’Born, CCI, and Tracey Bodnarchuk, Canada Powered by Women

But things are changing. 

“Canadian tech businesses have squared their shoulders and presented themselves globally in a way they haven’t done before,” said Stuart MacDonald. Compared to the 1990s, he said tech businesses are in “a much better position.”

People are no longer moving to Silicon Valley after earning their degrees, but taking advantage of the resources available at home to create a business, make it global and attract talent from all over the world. 

This has direct consequences for the Canadian economy. By growing big companies and generating domestic wealth, more taxes can be collected that can help pay for the social system, said O’Born. 

Bodnarchuk agrees, noting we have to have a thriving industry to have a thriving social system. 

How does bringing back the woolly mammoth help with climate change?

Colossal Biosciences is attempting the seemingly impossible: bringing back the woolly mammoth, the Tasmanian tiger and the dodo bird from extinction. 

While this may seem like science fiction, Ben Lamm, Colossal’s co-founder and CEO, says they hope to piece together a de-extinction toolkit that can help conservationists. 

By reviving extinct species, Lamm thinks they can help address the world’s current biodiversity crisis. If the crisis is left unaddressed, he says it could could lead to a loss of 50% of the world’s biodiversity by 2050.

Ben Lamm, Colossal

The selection of these animals wasn’t arbitrary. They were chosen because they had the right answers to three key questions:

  • Is it possible to resurrect this species? 
  • Would they serve a purpose in our current environment? 
  • Are their current ecosystems similar to before they went extinct?

Additionally, Lamm notes that they’re charismatic from a story perspective, making it easier to rally public support. 

The result will be a more biodiverse ecosystem, while making the innovative technology available to other industries for other applications.

Synthetic biology is “probably the most powerful technology humanity has discovered,” said Lamm. “It’s akin to inventing computers and discovering fire.”

It can be massively applicable to real world problems, but there’s a “responsibility to take the right steps.”

“Lets crawl, walk, run here,”: he said. “Not open Pandora’s box.”

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The Northern Lights Technology & Innovation Forum navigates AI, economic concerns and upskilling in Alberta

Panelists dive into how innovation and collaboration may help navigate the changing industry landscapes



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While rapid advancements in AI are reshaping industries worldwide, they’ve sparked discussions about innovation and community resilience through ongoing economic challenges. At this year’s Northern Lights Technology and Innovation Forum, panelists explored how technology could drive positive adaptation.

​​Moderated by the Calgary Economic Development’s Geraldine Anderson, the panel featured:

  • Mark Little, co-founder and CEO Jotson Inc, and board member of General Fusion
  • Anna Baird, culture and innovation evangelist at Google
  • Dan Semmens, SVP and head of data and IT at ATB Financial
  • Arthur Kent, Canadian journalist and author
  • Joy Romero, executive advisor innovation at Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL)

Approximately 250 attendees gathered for the forum at the Calgary Petroleum Club on Feb. 8. Filled with industry leaders and burgeoning entrepreneurs, the forum focused on collaboration and knowledge sharing in the tech sector.

Over the past five years, Calgary has seen a 22 per cent increase in tech talent and total tech jobs, emerging as one of North America’s top markets for young tech professionals.

“The talent pool here is amazing,” said ​​John Givens, vice president of sales at C3 AI and one of the event’s organizers. “So how do we leverage our talent here? How do we share that knowledge?”

In response, this year’s forum included the inaugural “Mentors and Makers” initiative, where a dozen industry experts pinned green buttons to their lapels, signaling to anyone in the crowd that they’re open to a conversation.

Shawn Mahoney, another event organizer and co-founder of Spare Parts & Gasoline, said in his opening remarks that the initiative speaks to “creating the new innovators that we need to solve tomorrow’s problems.”

And with that, the panel took the stage to dig into the big questions: What are the challenges and opportunities for Alberta as a growing tech market? How will AI continue to change industries across the board? And if it does, will that be a bad thing?

The Alberta advantage

The panel conversation was kicked off by the first question asked by moderator Geraldine Anderson: “What is the Alberta mindset, or the ‘Alberta advantage?’” 

Mark Little. Photo by DX Journal / Digital Journal

Mark Little, co-founder and CEO Jotson Inc, said Alberta has a lot going for it — including having the highest GDP in Canada, a younger population, and high education levels — but those aren’t the advantages that stand out to him.

“There’s a resilience and an entrepreneurial spirit here,” he said. “As a result of that, we’re seeing innovation … I think 10 to 15 years from now we’re going to lead this country in innovation and it’ll be every sector you could imagine.”

Hailing from Vancouver and the only panelist not based in Calgary, Google’s Anna Baird said she considers herself an honorary Albertan based on the “sheer grittiness and roll up your sleeves and work together” attitude she’s witnessed. 

“The grittiness takes us into innovation,” said Baird. “We’re willing to try new things, we’re willing to fail — hopefully fast and cheaply, as is Google’s ethos. But we’re also willing to borrow with pride and give kudos to the people we’re borrowing the pride from so we can have building blocks.” 

The panelists’ discussion kept coming back to the importance of adaptability, innovation, and collaboration. While the province faces significant hurdles, including global market fluctuations and environmental concerns, they spoke with optimism about the potential to emerge stronger by investing in the future.

Dan Semmens, SVP and head of data and IT at ATB Financial, calls it an “opportunity” for both the province and country to focus on investing in the next generation.

“I think the opportunity there is continuing to invest in our most precious resource, which is our young people,” he said. 

When it comes to AI, “it’s on all of us” to level up our own skills

Joy Romero. Photo by DX Journal / Digital Journal

AI is already impacting most industries globally, and it shows no signs of slowing down. But it’s not new either.

Joy Romero, executive advisor of innovation at Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), said she was using AI neural networks 20 years ago to take ecological data and process it through oil sands facilities. 

“Why?” she asked. “Because that would allow us to improve our processing and our productivity … So for me, digital is our world. That’s productivity.”

The day of the panel, Google announced that Gemini Ultra 1.0, the largest version of their large language model, is being released to the public. 

Baird was asked about the implications of the new AI model, and while she acknowledged there will be challenges, she maintained that “the train has left the station.”

“It’s on all of us here in the room to level up our own skills,” she says. “With an announcement like Gemini, like you have to get in there, you have to play, you have to try.”

Anna Baird. Photo by DX Journal / Digital Journal

Transitioning to the realm of media and journalism, Canadian journalist Arthur Kent highlighted the increasing role of AI in newsrooms. From assisting journalists in gathering and analyzing data to content creation, journalists are experimenting with AI for efficiency and detecting false information.

“We can become even better if we harness artificial intelligence to do that,” said Kent. “So we constantly have to be developing and pushing ourselves forward, to keep pace with this.”

However, he emphasized the critical role of journalists in maintaining integrity and discerning between fact and fiction in an era of AI-generated content. 

“Journalism is always going to be a human process, because journalism is based on their location, and verification, verifying leads, tips, and figuring out rumour from fact,” said Kent. “So far, none of the machines that I’ve seen associated with artificial intelligence, have those human characteristics. However, there is also that human aspect called temptation.”

Arthur Kent. Photo by DX Journal / Digital Journal

In the financial services industry, Semmens said the impact of generative AI “poses an existential risk” to the relationship banks have with their clients. 

Despite this, he says incorporating AI technology into banking is “an incredible opportunity” to personalize experiences for customers more effectively and efficiently, and he expects to see a lot of changes in open banking in the next three to five years. 

“With all the disinformation that is out there, a trusted source is going to be a high commodity,” he said. “And so I think in banking, being a heavily regulated industry, there is an opportunity for us to really show up from that standpoint.”

Dan Semmens. Photo by DX Journal / Digital Journal

An innovation forum’s charitable roots

The Northern Lights Technology and Innovation Forum’s story begins over a decade ago. The organizers, including Givens, first banded together for the Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Hockey Pro-Am Tournament in support of Alzheimer’s research and education. 

As the cause drew more attention they opted to expand the tournament into the forum as a way to expand their reach. All of the event proceeds go to Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Centre for the Alzheimer’s Research and Education Society — and this year they broke their record, raising a minimum of $40,000 thanks in part to a funding match made by Google. 

“It’s amazing,” Givens said at the end of the night. “I always knew the potential of our community. And I explained to people that the community is the draw … It’s about education. It’s about doing the right thing. It’s about just finding ways for other people to get involved in doing the same thing. There’s enough energy there. Now we just have to harness it.”

DX Journal is an official media partner of the Northern Lights Technology and Innovation Forum.

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The Northern Lights Technology & Innovation Forum comes to Calgary next month

Panellists from Google, ATB, Jotson and Canadian media will join the the second annual Northern Lights Technology & Innovation Forum in Calgary on Feb. 8



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In a world increasingly dominated by global competition and technological advancement, the Northern Lights Technology and Innovation Forum focuses on the power of knowledge-sharing and collaboration in the tech community. 

Coming to Calgary Feb. 8, the forum places a spotlight on critical issues impacting the community. Last year’s focus was on enabling net-zero carbon emissions and this year the focus shifts to economic challenges and what solutions can be found through innovation.

As the past year has seen heavy inflation, layoffs, volatile energy prices and geopolitical instability, this year’s panel discussion is designed to  provide a “360-degree view” of how these challenges impact Alberta’s economy and community.  

Moderated by the Calgary Economic Development’s Geraldine Anderson, the panel includes:

  • Mark Little, co-founder and CEO Jotson Inc, and board member of General Fusion
  • Anna Baird, culture and innovation evangelist at Google
  • Dan Semmens, SVP and head of data and IT at ATB Financial
  • Arthur Kent, Canadian journalist and author
  • Joy Romero, executive advisor innovation at Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL)

Panellists will explore how governments, large companies, and startups can work together to navigate changes to come, and which technologies have the potential to positively disrupt the status quo. 

“Mark brings a massive amount of background, and he’s led thousands of folks in our community, and to see what he’s doing now in the global economy is going to be really exciting,” says John Givens, vice president of sales at C3 AI and one of the event’s organizers. “And to have somebody who comes from a leadership position at Google in Canada — we’re crazy excited about that.”

Givens adds that he expects artificial intelligence to be a focus, with panellists like Semmens likely to focus on what’s happening in financial markets, and how technology will continue to impact that sector.

And with a packed career including working as a foreign correspondent at NBC, Kent has been “involved in more things than I can keep track of,” says Givens. Kent is expected to discuss cybercrime and the political and military impacts of technology.

Transforming from a hockey tournament to an innovation forum

Givens and his fellow organizers launched the first forum last year as a way to expand their decade-long history with the Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Hockey Pro-Am Tournament in support of Alzheimer’s research and education.

Taking it back to the hockey tournament where it all began, 100% of the proceeds of this event go to Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Centre for the Alzheimer’s Research and Education Society. 

More than $300,000 has been raised by the team since its inception, and they commit an annual $25,000 to Alzheimer’s Society from the event. However, Givens emphasizes the importance of education and awareness in their campaign.

“It’s about education, not just the money,” he says. “It’s about creating awareness.”

John Givens and the C3 AI team for the Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Hockey Pro-Am Tournament. Photo courtesy of John Givens

Outside of the charitable support, the event is meant to support the growing business community and tech sector in the province. Technological advancements are impacting all sectors, and Givens says it’s important to “mindshare” across disciplines and open avenues for new innovations to emerge.

“It’s called the Northern Lights for a reason — it represents Alberta,” says Givens in an interview with DX Journal. Givens notes that the convergence of technology, innovation, resilience, and charitable giving is central to the theme and purpose of this year’s event.

“What I’m really proud of when I think about the Calgary ecosystem is we have an enormous amount of talent in this community,” says Givens. “We’re competing on a global market now, so our customers are hiring globally, and they’re competing on wages globally. We need to bring our talent together and lift them all up and share the best of the best and let everybody know what the best looks like.”

More than 250 people are expected to gather at the Petroleum Club for the forum’s lively discussion and networking opportunities. The event is sponsored by Spare Parts & Gasoline (Presenting Sponsor), and the mesh conference (Platinum Sponsor), with DX Journal being this year’s media partner.

DX Journal is an official media partner of the Northern Lights Technology and Innovation Forum. To learn more and get tickets to the event, happening February 8, visit the event page

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COP28 points to AI for climate change solutions in developing countries

Examining AI initiatives brought up at the COP28 climate conference



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Need company data insights? AI can help. 

Better efficiency in healthcare? AI is there, too. 

It’s no surprise really, as AI paves its way into almost every industry. But the recent COP28 climate conference invited entire governments to consider AI as a solution to climate challenges in developing countries. 

Currently, governments already use AI to prepare for hurricanes, reduce water usage, and predict general climate patterns. It’s also been estimated that AI could help mitigate as as much as one-tenth of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

During COP28, which ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, Omar Sultan Al Olama, the United Arab Emirates Minister of State for AI, digital economy, and remote work applications, urged the entire world to integrate AI into climate policies.

“Harnessing artificial intelligence as a strategic asset to mitigate climate change involves integrating it into national policies and plans,” he said. “These measures and policies should not be viewed in isolation, but rather as a unified global initiative, acknowledging that climate change transcends geographical boundaries and requires concerted global efforts.”

Some examples of AI-inspired climate change initiatives include: 

  • Designs for low-emission technologies (advanced batteries)
  • Reduce emissions in food production and manufacturing
  • Balance electricity during extreme climate events like tropical storms
  • Identify renewable energy projects
  • Identify tropical disease with machine learning
  • Design hurricane-resistant buildings

Here are some highlights from other countries pledging to introduce AI into their climate policies: 


“We are partnering with international tech companies to test their ideas in Barbados whilst contributing to the island’s development. Some ideas include using machine learning and AI to check for the presence of tropical diseases, design hurricane resistant buildings and plan infrastructure investment. Collaboration, training and technology transfer are key to ensuring that AI contributes effectively to climate mitigation and adaptation for small island developing states.”


“It is important to adapt the technology to take account of the digital divide, especially among those most vulnerable to climate change. Integration of chatbot voice with local languages in these emerging technology tools is one solution that would ensure the existing digital divide is taken into account.”

  • Moussa Bocar Thiam, Minister of Communications, Telecommunications and the Digital Economy, Senegal


“We must manage the risks and seize the promise of artificial intelligence. The United States is committed to doing so, as President Biden’s recent Executive Order on AI demonstrates. By working together, we can responsibly harness the power of this emerging technology to develop AI tools that help mitigate climate change risks, make our communities more sustainable and resilient, and build an equitable clean energy future for all.”

  • Ali Zaidi, Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor, United States of America

Learn more about COP28 here

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