Over his 30-year career, Bruce Lévis has become one of the most influential technology entrepreneurs in the government technology sector in North America.
Born near Gatineau, in Maniwaki, he never expected that one day he would be thrown into the technology ring. Having grown up in a farming family, he regularly evokes his pride in his grandparents and parents who ploughed his ancestral land—land that his children still cultivate.
“My Irish-Quebecois family has lived on the family farm for five generations. Farming is part of me.”
At the table with government decision-makers, Portage CyberTech’s co-founder doesn’t hide his roots in his region. On the contrary, his frankness and brotherly nature come to the fore when raising the real issues that concern people.
“It’s important to put people first. To create benefits for them. Digital services are what make an economy competitive.”
Learn how this barley farmer forged his own path in Canada’s digital transformation and how he plans to connect regions to the global economy.
Technology in the 80s: Promise on the horizon
Bruce admits that without his parents, he would never have gotten into technology. Initially, he dreamt of becoming a farmer, and his brother-in-law was the first to learn about the field.
“When my parents saw his salary in 1988, they reacted as if he had won the lottery (…) and they were the ones who pushed me to go into computer science.”
Soon, he was hired as an intern at major IT companies in Montreal as an IBM XT-compatible computer technician, one of the world's first personal computers. But Bruce is the first to admit that “he was not the best programmer in the world.”
“My bosses immediately saw that I loved people, that I had social skills that others didn’t. So they put me in sales.”
Bruce was an immediate success. His career took him to Northern Micro, Computer Associates and Urthgate Systems, always as an expert for the federal public service.
When asked why he likes to work with governments, he admits that he could have worked on simpler and more lucrative issues, but it would not have been as exciting from a personal point of view.
“Working with governments allows me to help more people and build solid foundations. (…) We serve the world. We help improve their lives. That is very important to me.”
Knowing this, it makes sense that he founded his consulting companies Askari and Becker-Carroll (named after his mother). He has provided his expertise to governments for nearly 20 years.
“Helping people move forward and give back is what motivates me. I want to see them accomplish their goals first and foremost and support the organizations in my region.”
It is thanks to his spirit of mutual support that Bruce has managed to grow an impressive business network on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.
With his wealth of experience providing digital expertise to governments, he was quick to understand the problem between public services and the people it serves.
Digital services: A chaotic offer and broken trust
Bruce is unequivocal: “Technology for governments is complex and disconnected. It can be very intimidating for a small town.”
While the federal and provincial governments in Canada have many resources, municipalities and regional organizations often do not.
“In many municipalities, the mayor has a second job. They are people with good intentions who want to do good for society. For many, cybersecurity and digital transformation are not even part of their vocabulary.”
Yet citizens’ expectations are the same in the city as in the countryside. The statistics don’t lie: 84% of Canadians believe that their access to government services would be simplified if more digitally accessible options were available.
In addition, Bruce notes that across North America, there is a gap that has been created between governments and the population, not least because of inefficient public services, but also because the economy is changing rapidly due to technology.
“When you lose your job and your government doesn’t help you protect your identity, it’s normal to feel frustrated. In many places, there is more and more mistrust of governments and it becomes problematic when we have to make a technological shift throughout a society.”
After all of the technological advances in the 2000s, cynicism became widespread.
A few companies transformed traditional fields in just a few years, such as agriculture, electronic messaging and transportation. While everyone was buying a smartphone, we didn’t know that people were getting rich off our personal information.
“Things are changing. Governments have better frameworks in place and are undergoing a transformation. Now, we must give people back the responsible technology they deserve, that respects their privacy and creates economic benefits for everyone.”
And this is where we see the real Bruce. If there are people he can help, he will reach out to them. This is why he co-founded, along with Don Cuthbertson, a brand new company...
Portage CyberTech: Above and beyond products
In 2021, Bruce established Portage CyberTech, bringing together regulatory technology experts and creating a portfolio of solutions tailored to governments and specific sectors.
The company’s primary mission is to offer technologies that respect the privacy of citizens in all respects and that do not disrupt the processes in place.
“It takes ethical technologies that will disregard confidential data when searching for information. It is what is needed if we want to restore trust between governments and the public.”
To achieve this, Bruce says we must go off the beaten paths in the industry. Once the solutions have proven themselves, we need to talk about the real issues rather than the products.
“We need to bring together and connect the parties that aren’t working together. Digital transformation is above all an exercise in bringing people together. We need to get universities, governments and hospitals talking, for example.”
He stressed that these discussions are essential for regional entities, such as regional county municipalities and counties, to pool resources and create easy-to-use solutions. The same goes for large hospital groups where multiple professionals must interact with each other to provide care.
Today, thanks to Bruce, Portage CyberTech is not only a provider of security solutions, but also a mediator that forges connections between organizations that did not previously speak to each other. He cites as an example what is happening with Leaders Connect 2023 in the construction industry.
“In the end, my dream is to improve access to good jobs and high-quality education.”
Creating economic benefits for all
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “The global digital economy is expected to reach $25 trillion within five years.” In other words, 25% of the global economy.
Bruce is therefore right to advocate for making digital services accessible to everyone, everywhere.
“If people in villages and regions are not allowed to participate in the global economy, it will create major injustice. In some places, this is already the case.”
Bruce points out that today, no one should have to leave their hometown and move to the city. Renting an apartment, paying significant expenses, going into debt and not seeing your loved ones...
Technology exists to connect regions to the global economy. In a large country like Canada, it can become a great asset in terms of regional development.
“A person who is raised in a village like mine, Maniwaki, should have access to university and college programs 100% remotely. The technology exists and it should help keep people in their hometowns.”
When you hear him speak, you can feel that helping others is what makes him tick. His brotherly farmer spirit is still alive and well.
By creating Portage CyberTech, he is pursuing his dream of providing greater economic equity across the country—because it is an issue that truly affects the everyone.
He is proud to point out that his company already helps millions of citizens, government employees and certified professionals.
“Change is afoot! Our solutions will simplify people’s lives more and more and allow regions to grow their economy.”