One of the world’s largest technology titans this week unveiled an ambitious expansion in Canada, including upskilling talent in the fields of artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.
An announcement from Microsoft unveiled US$500 million worth of investment earmarked for scaling cloud computing and AI infrastructure and talent in Quebec over the next two years—which represents an increase in Microsoft’s Canadian cloud footprint of more than 700%, according to a statement from the Redmond behemoth.
“Today’s announcement builds on the extensive investments Microsoft has made in Quebec and is just the latest example of our deep commitment to this province,” stated Chris Barry, President of Microsoft Canada. “These investments will not only provide Quebec’s private and public sector organizations with more capacity and added resiliency to transform operations but will also enable a trusted and secure foundation to scale solutions faster to market and compete globally, securing Quebec’s future in the digital economy.”
The announcement coincides with the release of a report from Ernst & Young which found that Microsoft’s ecosystem in Quebec includes over 3,000 partners and supports 57,000 jobs while contributing more than $6 billion annually to Quebec’s GDP.
Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry believes Microsoft’s additional investment reflects Quebec’s positioning “at the forefront of global innovation on artificial intelligence,” citing “one of the highest concentrations of deep learning researchers in the world.”
“Our Government is committed to working with partners like Microsoft to ensure that all actors in the Canadian AI ecosystem have access to the resources and computing infrastructure they need to advance the commercialization of AI systems here at home, and to advance AI that provides social and economic benefits to all Canadians,” the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne stated.
“When a global company chooses Quebec, all citizens benefit because of access to quality, well-paying jobs in cutting-edge fields,” added Jonatan Julien, Minister responsible for Infrastructure and for the Capitale-Nationale Region. “This will stimulate the local economy and bring Quebec City region to the global stage, while improving the quality of life of its residents.”
Microsoft intends to turbocharge its cloud computing capacity in Canada over the next three years, during which time the company also intends to accelerate AI and cybersecurity innovation across the country.
The latter goal is to be achieved partially through the launch of the Operational Risk Skills Development Centre, which in collaboration with KPMG Canada will offer French-first training to help businesses and governments build cybersecurity protections, as well as navigate opportunities and challenges around Gen AI.
KPMG International’s latest CEO Outlook revealed that 93% of Canadian CEOs are concerned that the emergence of GenAI will make them more vulnerable to cybersecurity breaches, with only half believing they are fully prepared to face a cyberattack today.
Representing an investment of nearly $2M over three years, the Centre aims to train more than 11,000 learners in its first phase.
”The creation of the Operational Risk Skills Development Centre marks a significant step in the global alliance between KPMG International and Microsoft,” said Benoit Lacoste Bienvenue, Regional Managing Partner Québec region, KPMG. ”Through this collaboration, we aim to strengthen cybersecurity and make generative AI a transformative opportunity, instead of a threat.”
In addition to French-forward education on cybersecurity, Microsoft is helping power the tech talent pipeline in Quebec.
The company is working with Power Canada to bolster the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator within Quebec to provide new digital training and career development opportunities to the region.
As part of the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator, NPower Canada will now leverage Microsoft curricula to launch its intermediate Junior Data Analyst program in the province, including Microsoft Azure AI Fundamentals certification, preparing jobseekers with skills for digital careers.
“Microsoft has played a pivotal role in our mission to provide in-demand digital skills and professional development to Quebec’s job-seekers,” stated said Julia Blackburn, CEO, NPower Canada. “We are excited to continue our alliance with Microsoft to offer even more opportunities in the province and continue to equip Canadians with the skills they need to thrive in digitally-enabled roles.”
Microsoft is hardly the only firm investing in AI skills and infrastructure in Canada, of course. In Toronto, Thomson Reuters recently committed to a $100-million annual investment in AI, including funds toward upskilling talent.