Technicity West: Alberta’s tech minister says work ongoing to eliminate ‘digital divide’

Nate Glubish, Alberta’s minister for technology and innovation, vowed this week that his government’s goal continues to be to connect every household and community in the province to reliable, high-speed internet by the end of 2027.

In a speech delivered at Technicity West, a virtual information forum designed for municipal decision-makers, private sector IT influencers and digital entrepreneurs involved in the public sector space, the MLA for the provincial riding of Strathcona-Sherwood Park said the province is actively working with the federal government to achieve the ambitious rollout.

The province and Ottawa have committed C$390 million each over the next four years to eliminate what has been described by the former as a “digital divide.”

Describing it as one of his top priorities, Glubish said that he has spoken with many Albertans in order to understand “exactly how (it) impacts their lives and livelihoods.

“Families have told me about their school-aged children writing exams in fast food parking lots, where internet speeds are faster than at home. Businesses have recounted their struggles to grow and to create jobs, with many of them forced to consider moving to areas with stronger connectivity.

“Through these conversations, it became apparent that there is a great need for improved access to high-speed internet, and we set out to create a plan to close the digital divide.”

The feedback, he said, was “distilled” into the Alberta Broadband Strategy, a document released in March that sets out how the province plans to achieve its connectivity goals.  “(It) sets the path for improved internet speeds even in the most remote corners of our province,” he said, adding that earlier this fall, “we announced the first allocation of funding, which will improve connectivity for more than 10,000 homes in over 50 communities.”

Glubish at the time said of the C$70.6 million joint investment from Ottawa and the provincial government that “improving access to high-speed internet is one of the most powerful things we can do to support rural, remote, and Indigenous communities across Alberta. A reliable internet connection unlocks access to the essential services we rely on every day, supporting everything from online learning to better home health care.”

At Technicity West, he confirmed there “are many projects in the works that I hope to be able to announce soon. As we go forward, we will be reviewing the progress of our broadband projects to ensure that no Alberta community is left behind.”

Another key initiative, he said, is the Alberta Technology Service Agreement (ATIS) that was also introduced earlier this year, and is a strategy designed to position the province as an “internationally recognized technology and innovation hub.”

Glubish, who, prior to taking on his latest cabinet posting, served as the minister of Service Alberta, said “technology is a major economic driver and a job creator here in Alberta. And it is essential for growth and success in every sector of our economy. Whether it is energy or clean tech, manufacturing or health sciences, agribusiness, or the public sector, tech is embedded in everything we do.”

The province’s goal with ATIS, he said, is to outline actions to build a future-ready workforce that will support a technology and innovation ecosystem and attract the investment needed for businesses to grow.

“Artificial Intelligence, better known as AI, will play a key role in this strategy and help us build on our existing strengths. Alberta is ranked third globally as a leader in AI research and is home to the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute, which specializes in connecting world leading research with practical industry applications.

“AI has incredible potential to improve the efficiency of government services, delivering better outcomes, better user experiences for lower cost within the public sector.”

Much of the AI research, he said, is happening through Announced this past spring, it is a public sector AI lab that has partnered with AltaML, a developer of AI tools.

“As part of this partnership, government and post secondary students will work together to develop smart products and models that leverage AI to solve complex real-world problems,” said Glubish. “One of the AI projects underway aims to predict wildfires before they happen so that we can proactively deploy firefighting equipment and resources to the areas that need them the most, reducing the risk of a wildfire getting out of control.”

Another project is looking at an AI model to “detect destructive pine beetle infestations, so that we can be more proactive in defending against these pests and the damage they cause. Both of these projects have the potential to introduce new services to make our community safer, stronger, and to make life better for Albertans.”

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Paul Barker
Paul Barker
Paul Barker is the founder of PBC Communications, an independent writing firm that specializes in freelance journalism. His work has appeared in a number of technology magazines and online with the subject matter ranging from cybersecurity issues and the evolving world of edge computing to information management and artificial intelligence advances.

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