Canada’s CIO Alex Benay leaving public sector to join Ottawa’s MindBridge Ai

Benay
Alex Benay, most recently the CIO of the Government of Canada, will join MindBridge Ai. File photo

Two years after setting out to reshape the federal government’s digital presence, Alex Benay is leaving the public sector to join one of Ottawa’s fastest-rising tech stars.

Benay, a 2016 Forty Under 40 Award recipient, announced via Twitter Wednesday that he will become chief client officer at MindBridge Ai, a local artificial intelligence software developer.

The young father and tech exec leaves his post as Canada’s chief information officer, which he took up in April 2017 with an aim to bridge the feds’ aging IT infrastructure into the digital era. Speaking to Techopia shortly after he started the gig, he said he felt a responsibility to set the federal government on a course to adopt emerging technologies and remain relevant in the lives of Canadian citizens for the foreseeable future.

“If we don’t change how we do things, we will potentially become more and more obsolete,” Benay said. “It is a big gap, and it is growing.”

In his Twitter post, Benay expressed satisfaction with the work he had accomplished in the past two years. He pointed to cloud adoption initiatives across the public services, frameworks for ethical AI, open government initiatives and a slew of renewed policies and laws for the digital age as progress in the feds’ digital transformation.

Still, Benay said work remains to be done: Canada requires continued investments in the country’s digital economy, needs a new set of digital citizens’ rights and should do more to prepare its workforce for disruptive technologies.

“I encourage you to continue forging ahead, keep asking why, and I know you will continue to make a positive and profound difference in the lives of Canadians everywhere,” he wrote to his former colleagues.

Benay joins a local tech firm with no shortage of momentum. Recently named to the Impact Centre’s Narwhal List of high-potential Canadian firms, MindBridge Ai raised $29.6 million in a series-B round a few months ago. The company has garnered attention for its AI-powered fraud detection tool for auditors and bookkeepers.

Benay is not the only recent executive hire for MindBridge: The company added Miyo Yamashita as chief strategy officer last month in preparation for an initial public offering in 2021.

MindBridge’s new CCO brings a unique blend of public- and private-sector experience to his role. Before taking on his CIO role with the feds, Benay led the Ottawa-based Science and Technology Museums Corp. for three years. He also worked in various executive roles at OpenText for seven years and in numerous federal government departments for a decade before that.