Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer announced support for Alberta businesses navigating the digital world through the Digital Economy Program. (File photo/PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff)

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer announced support for Alberta businesses navigating the digital world through the Digital Economy Program. (File photo/PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff)

Alberta Government aims to help Alberta businesses go digital

The Digital Economy Program will provide small businesses with free support as they grow online

Over the next two years, the Government of Alberta will be investing $10 million towards helping small businesses in Alberta grow and manage their online presence.

“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’s small businesses but will also provide employment opportunities for post-secondary students and recent graduates looking to apply their technology skills and gain valuable experience,” said Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation in a conference onOct. 28.

The Digital Economy Program will provide small businesses with free support and online tools as well as employment opportunities for post-secondary students and recent graduates looking to apply their technology skills.

Business Link and Digital Main Street will be delivering the program on behalf of the government.

The program, which consists of two initiatives to support eligible small businesses across Alberta, will help Alberta small businesses increase their digital presence to reach more customers and compete in an increasingly online world.

“We are very proud to see the Digital Main Street program expand across Alberta. Creating an ecosystem to provide businesses with direct support and resources to help them with their digital transformation has always been at the core of our business,” said John Kiru, executive director, Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), and founder of Digital Main Street.

“Now being able to bring the Digital Main Street program and brand to Alberta in collaboration with our partners at Business Link and the Government of Alberta is extremely exciting. In a time of much need, these programs will create local employment opportunities and provide training and education to thousands of business owners across Alberta.”

Clinton Senkow, vice chair of Business Link, says the program is an incredible opportunity for small businesses across Alberta to level up their digital efforts.

“Business Link is thrilled to deliver the successful Digital Main Street platform in Alberta, giving our businesses even more tools to recover from the pandemic and flourish online in the coming years.”

According to a survey conducted by Business Link back in April, of small Alberta businesses, 40 per cent of respondents said they do not have a website or do not have eCommerce on their website.

Part of the Digital Economy Program includes utilizing a platform, called ShopHERE. Developed by Google, it allows small businesses to create and operate an online store. Businesses can access help through Digital Main Street to establish an online store and receive training and support to manage it.

“Rural Albertans have often had to choose between living in their hometown and pursuing new opportunities. As the world moves digital and small businesses have the ability to expand online, Albertans will be able to live and work anywhere,” said Nate Horner, Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development.

“With programs like Digital Main Street, genius creations from small-town Alberta can be sold around the world.”

“In today’s business environment, developing digital capacity is only going to become ever more important. Aside from helping more small and medium-sized enterprises get online, this project will provide valuable work experience for students and recent graduates — two significant priorities for our network,” said Ken Kolby, president and CEO, Alberta Chambers of Commerce.

Another innovative that is part of the program is the Digital Service Squad Grant program.

Eligible organizations in the province will receive funding to hire Alberta post-secondary students and recent graduates to regional digital service squads.

Small businesses can apply to the regional digital service squad for free technical support, such as help with developing digital transformation plans and setting up and adopting digital technologies ranging from websites to Google business profiles, social media, e-commerce and more at no cost.

“With the funding we have received from the Government of Alberta, we anticipate helping more than 5,000 small businesses across Alberta start, run and grow their online presence,” said Senkow.

Businesses registered in Alberta with less than 50 employees are eligible to register for the program. More information on the program, including full eligibility details and how to apply, can be found on the Digital Main Street Alberta website at digitalmainstreet.ca/alberta.

The government says the Digital Economy Program supports commitments that were made under Alberta’s Recovery Plan to protect Albertans’ livelihoods, increase the competitiveness of Alberta businesses and diversify the economy.