The maple syrup was on full display in the background as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella dropped by the CIO Association of Canada’s recent fireside chat to share some wise words and drop some news.
“I want to say a big thank you to all of you. I know this has been the most unprecedented year,” he said during a virtual one-on-one with Philippe Johnston, president of the association and the general director of digital services for Transport Canada. “Everyone one of the organizations you represent has had to depend on your capabilities.”
The recovery from the pandemic will be digital and Nadella stressed the importance of AI and edge computing to help with the intense data collection and analysis that’s happening behind the scenes in all sectors. “Structural changes,” he said, happening worldwide to accommodate remote work will require enterprises and governments to become more digitally-capable.
Johnston acknowledged the progress made over the past year by organizations as they crammed years worth of digital transformation into a couple of months, but he noted the future remains uncertain, and thousands of organizations, especially in healthcare and other frontline services, are scrambling to modernize and keep personal data secure.
“How will large companies like Microsoft help address these future challenges that we should all be aware of and address as a society?” Johnston asked.
Nadella pointed to some of the investments the tech giant has made globally with partners, including last summer’s launch of a global initiative to deliver new digital skills to 25 million people.
Microsoft is backing the effort with $20 million in cash grants to help non-profit organizations worldwide assist the people who need it most. Funding recipients include three Canadian nonprofits, NPower Canada, Canada Learning Code (CLC) in partnership with Juno College of Technology and Information Communications Council of Canada (ICTC).
Digital skills will be table stakes across all sectors, Nadella said.
Moments after his fireside chat with Johnston, Microsoft Canada also announced the addition of eight post-secondary institutions to its Canada Skills Program, bringing the total to 20 schools in six provinces across Canada.
Microsoft also announced the creation of a new Data Innovation Centre of Excellence in Toronto and the addition of a new Azure Edge Zone in Western Canada. The centre of excellence will help organizations seeking deep technical expertise around cloud computing get hands-on experience and put their solutions to the test.
The new Azure Edge Zone in Vancouver will not only add roughly 500 local technical jobs, but help Western Canadian healthcare and public sector customers address data residency and compliance requirements. It will also serve as a complementary piece to the existing Canadian Azure locations.
Nadella also praised Canada’s diverse economy and encouraged all sectors to have a forward-thinking mindset.
“It can’t just be about the tech industry. if you take the Canadian economy, it’s diverse. let’s make sure that every sector is growing because of new inputs and new productivity drivers,” he emphasized.