Last week, Economy and Employment Minister Doug Schweitzer unveiled the Digital Economy Program, which he says will help small businesses expand their digital presence.
Schweitzer calls it “a multi-pronged approach to giving Alberta small businesses the opportunity to compete in a digital landscape.”
The Digital Economy Program will be comprised of two different initiatives, with the provincial government investing $ 10 million over the next two years along with an additional $ 3 million contributed by the federal government.
The first program is the ShopHERE program powered by Google, which will help Alberta-based small businesses with 50 or fewer employees create and maintain an online store.
The Google-powered ShopHERE program will be managed by Digital Mainstreet, which is an online platform that helps small businesses with digital transformations, and is a partnership between the City of Toronto and several technology-focused companies such as Google, Facebook, and Shopify. .
The second program is the Digital Services Squad Grant Program, which will provide organizations with resources to hire recent graduates and Alberta postsecondary students to form “digital services squads.”
Nonprofits, business improvement associations, economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, indigenous organizations, and municipalities are eligible for grants to help build digital services squads for their communities.
The squads will provide regional technical assistance and support to eligible organizations at no cost to small businesses through these organizations.
The technical support provided by the teams will help small businesses with social media, e-commerce and the transition to a digital business.
The goal is to help students with technical skills gain hands-on experience and develop Alberta’s technology sector.
The Digital Service Squad grant program will be administered by Business Link, a federal and provincial funded non-profit organization designed to support small businesses.
Alberta registered businesses with 50 or fewer employees are considered eligible for both programs.
“We want to provide Alberta’s small business community with easy-to-use tools and resources to grow. This program will not only support Alberta small businesses, but will also provide employment opportunities for postsecondary students and recent graduates looking to apply their technology skills and gain valuable experience, ”said Schweitzer.
Deputy Minister for Rural Economic Development, Nate Horner, was also present to highlight the benefits of the Digital Economy Program for businesses in smaller population centers.
“Rural Albertans have often had to choose between living in their hometown and seeking new opportunities. As the world goes digital and small businesses have the ability to expand online, Albertans will be able to live and work anywhere, ”Horner said.
The government also released the findings of a recent survey conducted by Business Link in April that found that several small businesses in Alberta are facing challenges in transitioning to the digital economy.
61 percent of companies surveyed said that lack of technical expertise was the reason they did not have a website, and 60 percent indicated that high costs were a major barrier for companies to have a website.