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Digital transformation spend surges

Calgary companies are on course to invest $18.4-billion on digitization across all industries in Alberta by 2022 as part of the digital transformation of the provincial economy.

Firms are forecast to increase spending on digitization at a compound annual growth rate of 20 per cent through 2022 with $7.4 billion of the Alberta total to be spent directly in Calgary, concludes research conducted by IDC Canada for Calgary Economic Development.

Calgary is the first Canadian city to measure the digital spend forecast across its key industries associated with Internet of Things (IoT), next generation security, cognitive/artificial intelligence systems, 3D printing, augmented reality/virtual reality and robotics.

“The city’s technology sector is growing quickly, and Calgary Economic Development wanted to quantify the spend for the key engines of growth and innovation to ensure companies and top talent realize the scope of opportunity Calgary has to take on global challenges,” says Mary Moran, president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development.

“We intend to be disruptors in industry in the new economy – not the disrupted,” says Ms. Moran.

While the energy sector remains a key driver of the Alberta economy – it will account for 25 per cent of the estimated investment in digitization over the next three years – the balance will be shared by other sectors including agribusiness (forecast to be the fastest adopter of digitization), creative industries, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and health and life sciences.

“Calgary is a great location for the innovation transformation that will be happening in all industrial sectors,” says Ms. Moran. “And with our concentration of head offices, the city provides the opportunity for global tech companies and entrepreneurs to be close to decision-makers.”

Calgary Economic Development has a three-pronged strategy to round out its talent pool to ensure that tech specialists such as software engineers, data scientists, programmers and coders are available to meet the demands of the new economy.

“We want to retain every student coming out of those programs in Calgary. We want to retrain some of the talent who have great domain experience but are one semester away from being a software engineer as opposed to a civil engineer. And we want to recruit talent in both the international and domestic markets,” says Ms. Moran.

She adds that Calgary is not only a cost-effective city in which to start and grow a business, it also offers a quality of life necessary to retain top talent.

“Even during the downturn people were not leaving Calgary. In fact, we had 20,000 people a year moving to the city every year during the downturn, and quality of life was a major factor in driving that growth,” says Ms. Moran.

This piece first appeared in the Globe & Mail on June 27, 2019, for a special content edition of Alberta Economic Powerhouse.

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