With a view to accelerating the digital transformation of local businesses, the Quebec government has launched the Offensive de transformation numérique (OTN). Led by the Minister of Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon, the strategic initiative aims to engage strategic partners and various departments with economic roles, and coordinate their actions. These strategic partners include Investissement Québec, the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, Desjardins Group, the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.
The urgent need to go digital
Approximately 28% of companies still feel that their digital transformation is not urgent (Leger). The OTN wants to get things moving and encourage more than 43,000 businesses to get equipped with digital tools. Specifically, the overall objective is to provide more support to companies that wish to undertake or strengthen a digital transformation process. The OTN has an envelope of $130 million over two years (until March 31, 2022) and its specialized support will play a central role in the digital transformation of Quebec companies and SMEs. Two companies have already benefited from this initiative: Inno-centre and Groupe BIM have received financial assistance totalling $33.7 million. Digital technology is at the heart of our economic growth, our competitiveness and our productivity, said Éric Caire, Minister for Government Digital Transformation, Minister Responsible for Access to Information and the Protection of Personal Information and Deputy Government House Leader. The government and businesses must therefore seize the opportunities that digital transformation offers in order for Quebec to thrive. With the government digital transformation strategy launched in 2019 and the Offensive de transformation numérique, which was unveiled today, our government is creating the conditions for public bodies and businesses to take a giant step forward.
Our point of view
The Quebec government’s initiative is a good step forward. However, it would be foolish not to mention the elephant in the room—the serious lack of skilled labour. The information technology sector is particularly affected by this problem. One solution is to rely more heavily on immigration. However, the rules that Ottawa has set are slowing down this approach. Every international worker must provide their fingerprints and photograph (biometrics) before immigrating to Canada. However, very few collection sites are recognized by Immigration Canada. That results in a real headache in terms of logistics. And the procedure for obtaining work permits, the support for the move and the administrative paperwork don’t help matters either. Everything is time consuming and tedious. When you add a pandemic to the mix that is now in its third wave, you end up with an unfavourable context for obtaining support, even with millions in investment. If digital technology is a priority for policymakers, they should also support new approaches to attracting the next generation to the industry. One good example is the 42 Québec school that we discussed recently. Those in the field must find ways to reinvent themselves and frame educational programs according to the needs of the industry.