Small Business Digitization Initiative launch in Ontario

The Digital Revolution is happening! The Small Business Digitization Initiative (SBDI) was officially launched on April 6th in Ottawa. A hundred youth from across Ontario are helping Small and Medium-size Businesses (SMBs) thrive. This exemplary collaboration between businesses, academia, young talent, and government is positioning Ontario as a world leader in the Digital Economy.

Amanda O'Reilly, CEO @BalanceInStyle, explains why she invested her time in the SBDI program
Amanda O’Reilly, CEO @BalanceInStyle, is leveraging the SBDI program to build stunning customer experiences

SBDI is designed to support small and medium-size businesses like Balance InStyle (illustrated above). Amanda O’Reilly, award-winning CEO and Top 40 under 40, moved the audience when she explained why she dedicated her life to reducing stress and saving people’s time. She is generously communicating her sense of purpose and business savviness to the young generation. Also, she believes she could leverage technology to improve customer experience. Enters Melanie.

Melanie is telling the audience about her work with Amanda
Melanie is building a digital sales channel for @BalanceInStyle

Melanie is a highly driven and well-educated young professional. She became frustrated when she could not find a job in IT after graduating with a degree in Interactive Design from York University. She has the right credentials and skills, but too many small businesses don’t understand how to leverage her talent. Melanie grew frustrated that many businesses “don’t get it”. She has been eagerly looking for opportunities to apply her skills, including as an entrepreneur.

Melanie and Amanda are a fantastic match. Amanda has become a role-model for Melanie, on her way to become one of the top business women entrepreneurs in Ontario (watch for it!). At the same time, Melanie is applying her IT and Design expertise to improve Balance InStyle‘s customer experience.

Small Business Digitization in Ontario, Canada, and the World

Funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth, the Small Business Digitization Initiative connects talents with business opportunities. The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), a national center of expertise for the digital economy, acts as the catalyst to make the Canadian ICT sector thrive globally.

Savoir-faire Linux is the main training delivery partner, and a leader in technological innovation and Open Source Software since 1999. A recent study by Black Duck Software estimates that 78% of enterprises run on Open Source Software. Savoir-faire Linux shares its expertise with customers and partners such as Microsoft, IBM, Desjardins, General Electric, the Canadian Space Agency, and many other leading companies.

ICTC research shows that too many young ICT professionals (13% are unemployed) struggle to start a career in ICT where, on the other hand, jobs opportunities are enormous. The ICTC will need to fill 216,000 new positions in the next three years, and the gap is widening. ICT Job growth outpaces other sectors by 4 to 1.

There is a real risk for small businesses to be left behind. On one hand, technology and skills are changing fast as the world is going through the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, 2016). On the other hand, IT companies and large enterprises are competing for the same talents. Small businesses face the double challenge of envisioning where technology can help transform their industry, and acquiring the talent they need to execute on their vision.

SBDI strengthens Canadian businesses, helping them thrive locally, building on local talent excellence, and opening the door to share their expertise to the rest of the world.

Early Lessons Learned

For the little time we’ve been running the program, we learned there is a real need to educate small businesses. We realized that a program that we originally presented to employer as a “co-op” opportunity for students, is really an educational opportunity for businesses. We flipped the model on its head.

We are fortunate to work with leading business executives like Amanda O’Reilly, and many others in Ottawa, Toronto, and North Bay. They are visionaries who understand that technology can help make their business processes faster, better, and cheaper.

The Honourable Bardish Chagger and the Honourable Anthony Rota on a group picture with SBDI participants
The Honourable Bardish Chagger and the Honourable Anthony Rota with SBDI participants and the ICTC team

Our ambition is to inspire SMBs to leverage digital technology to grow their business, and to attract the young talent they need to succeed.

We also thank Microsoft, a Savoir-faire Linux and ICTC partner, for hosting the event at their Ottawa Office.

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