A report from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) has found that digital technology firms contributed $6.1 billion to the Atlantic Canada economy in 2017. This is up from $5.2 billion in 2014.
The region is not producing enough graduates to fill the demand for new workers.
The research report was commissioned by TechImpact, a private sector organization dedicated to building Atlantic Canada’s tech sector, to better understand the scope and importance of digital technology firms in Atlantic Canada and set a benchmark for its future growth.
APEC estimates there were 43,000 people in Atlantic Canada’s digital industry labour force in 2016. About two-thirds of those digital workers were in industries outside the digital sector. The report also identified 463 digital technology firms in the region.
“This report highlights the importance of this sector to our regional economy,” said Cathy Simpson, CEO of TechImpact. “Our focus at TechImpact has always been on driving economic prosperity through the development of our technology sector.”
“What this report shows us is that it’s crucial that the Atlantic region embrace and accelerate digital adoption and innovation to compete in the global economy,” she added. “Now that we’ve identified key areas that require our attention to grow the sector, our hope is that stakeholders across the region can make better decisions to maximize the potential of the digital technology industry.”
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At the same time, the report noted that there are challenges to growing this sector. APEC said the region is not producing enough graduates to fill the current demand for new workers; labour was identified as the number one challenge for digital technology firms in APEC’s survey.
“The digital technology industry is innovative, export-focused, and attracts a majority of the region’s venture capital,” said lead author, Patrick Brannon, APEC’s director of major projects. “However, the sector is smaller in Atlantic Canada compared to the rest of the country and there are several factors impeding its full potential.”
Over half of the firms included in the report have a focus on data analytics, with a high proportion also involved in the Internet of Things, automation, and artificial intelligence.
The report identified several priorities that policymakers should consider:
- The digital technology labour supply needs to increase in Atlantic Canada to meet the current demand for workers.
- Larger digital firms are needed in the region. Funding and other resources are required to support firms as they scale.
- Digital technology adoption rates, by all firms in the region, need to improve as Atlantic Canadian companies trail in the use of emerging digital technologies.
Read the full report here.