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UnITe 2019 connects Ontario’s higher education IT community

Clockwise from top: U of T Chief Information Officer Bo Wandschneider, UnITe attendees at Convocation Hall, featured speaker Dr. Ann Cavoukian, marketplace guests, IT@UofT Strategic Plan materials, registration area and keynote speaker Dr. Kamran Khan.

A total of 1,100  IT professionals from across Ontario gathered to network, discuss and share innovative ideas and trends at the UnITe 2019 conference, held at the University of Toronto’s (U of T) St. George campus May 1 to 3.

The conference combined three events into one: the Ontario Higher Education Information Technology (OHEIT) conference, U of T’s TechKnowFile (TKF) conference and Ryerson University Cybersecurity Day (RUCD).

Keynote speaker Dr. Kamran Khan, an infectious disease physician and scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, discussed his experience battling the 2003 SARS outbreak and the founding of his company BlueDot, which uses artificial intelligence to predict and track global outbreaks.

“This problem [infectious disease] is not going away, it’s only getting bigger,” said Dr. Khan in his presentation Spreading knowledge faster than disease. Dr. Khan, also a professor at the U of T Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, added: “Keep learning, keep innovating and keep using technology to our advantage.”

Clive Thompson, a U of T alumni, author and contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and Wired, began his presentation with the story of how Facebook’s popular newsfeed feature originated. He also discussed one of today’s most influential societal groups: computer programmers, the subject of his new book Coders.

Cyber security was another hot topic with RUCD-related sessions, such as featured speaker Dr. Ann Cavoukian, distinguished Expert-in-Residence at Ryerson University, author and former Information & Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

“Privacy is essential to freedom,” said Dr. Cavoukian in her discussion A strong foundation of security is essential to privacy: We can and must have both. Dr. Cavoukian spoke of her Privacy by Design concept and the ways in which consumers can empower themselves by becoming more inquisitive around their own privacy.

Conference sessions ranged from the technical, such as “The future of research – transforming the research administration at U of T,” to wellness sessions, such as “Yoga for busy professionals.” Presenters included subject matter experts from a range of higher education institutions, including the University of Guelph, McMaster University, OCAD University, Queens University, Trent University, University of Windsor and Ryerson University.

In addition to more than 60 educational breakout sessions, the conference included the IT@UofT Strategic Plan launch, presented by U of T Chief Information Officer Bo Wandschneider (view resources here).

He highlighted the year-long consultation work that went into developing the Strategic Plan and shared a related launch video. The end result was about “trusting the process,” he said, also reminding the crowd of the conference’s overarching theme: community, service and partnership.

The plan will guide IT@UofT over the next five years and includes three thematic pillars – people, solutions and collaboration – as well as a set of guidelines that will ensure local decision-making aligns and complements institutional direction across the University’s tri-campus community.