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Alberta government must invest in tech sector now: Edmonton Global

Employee working on artwork at BioWare's Edmonton office.
Employee working on artwork at BioWare's Edmonton office. Global News

Editor’s note: An interview segment originally part of this story has been removed.  The interview inadvertently gave the impression that the interview subject agreed with the approach of Edmonton Global.

As Alberta’s economy continues to take a beating because of COVID-19 shut-downs and the staggering drop in oil prices, a group working to attract more investment to the Edmonton region is calling on the Jason Kenney government to make major investments in digital infrastructure immediately.

READ MORE: Could Edmonton reopen before other parts of Alberta due to promising COVID-19 data?

Edmonton Global, said its Road to Recovery: Resiliency stimulus plan released this month, has outlined how to prepare Alberta, post-pandemic, and ease the shock of businesses struggling right now.

“We do see a lot of our core sectors hardest hit,” Lynette Tremblay, vice president of strategy and innovation at Edmonton Global, said. “But we do see a path forward for them and some hope in the future.

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“Not only do we need to act fast, we also need to be willing to make significant investments.”

Edmonton Global said the key to compete in the new reality is having the ability to innovate with new technology in every sector. The group pointed to oil and gas playing a major part in developing geothermal and hydrogen technology.

“There’s a lot that we have to offer and we see those as opportunities right now,” Tremblay said.

READ MORE: Canada’s GDP shrank by 9% in March amid COVID-19: StatCan

Edmonton Global said Alberta and Canada had not been focused enough on technology adoption like artificial intelligence and 5G (fifth-generation) cellular wireless communication.

“We think now is the time to change that,” Tremblay said.

“We talk to international site selectors on a regular basis and they’ve told us that it’s an expectation that metro regions are well-equipped with broadband.”

Coronavirus outbreak: What negative oil prices mean
Coronavirus outbreak: What negative oil prices mean

Tremblay added, “if they’re not, then they’re not in consideration for investment.”

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In a statement, the Alberta government said 5G investment falls under the federal government and said it had made a significant $54 million dollar investment in tech start-ups.

Justin Brattinga, press secretary to the minister of economic development, trade and tourism, said, as part of budget 2020, $42 million was committed to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which included supports for the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute and funding to the University of Alberta.

“We believe in supporting the tech sector,” Brattinga said.

“Our government’s upcoming investment and growth strategy will focus on attracting investment to the tech sector.”

Brattinga said $200 million committed for innovation and research would develop talent and grow sectors and attract investment.

One of the other recommendations to the province is to allocate $6.5 million to applied pharmaceutical innovation and coordinating a network of chemical labs and suppliers.

READ MORE: Alberta tech companies face challenges, opportunities during COVID-19 pandemic

Edmonton Global said it would allow Alberta to scale up and manufacture high-priority drugs.

Alberta tech companies seeing ups and downs during COVID-19 pandemic
Alberta tech companies seeing ups and downs during COVID-19 pandemic

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Edmonton Global said it shared its economic recovery blueprint with the province and has continued to seek out advice from its network of more than 70 partners, which include economists, academic institutions and chambers of commerce.

“We’re ready to help the government with its implementation plan.”