Digital Alberta’s response to COVID-19

Medicine Hat College students show off their interactive media skills
March 17, 2020
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Digital Alberta’s response to COVID-19

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Digital Alberta has had numerous conversations with industry stakeholders during the economic slowdown during the COVID-19 crisis, and is proud of the leadership these innovators continue to demonstrate across the province.

One of the greatest things our digital sector does well is work remotely, which is something many other industries are struggling with adopting.

Tomé Duarte, Senior Engineering Manager of the Dublin-based Web Summit, has created an incredible resource that we should all tuck away on our favourites page and revisit in the next few weeks and months. Tomé has more than 10 years’ experience working remotely, as well as managing remote teams.

His post describes how to define your workspace now that you suddenly may be sharing it with roommates or your significant other. Other highlights include how to maintain your mental health when feeling more isolated than ever. Etiquette tips are also included, such as rules about when to keep your microphone muted during video conference calls. The one thing it doesn’t talk about is when pants are mandatory in a video chat. Please people, always wear pants for these calls! Anyways, check out the resource; it’s something you can share with your remote teams and will hopefully be extremely useful.

Adaptive Albertans

We at Digital Alberta have also been following what companies have been sharing in the last few weeks. We know that our technology sector has been impacted by COVID-19, we just want to know how. The Alberta Innovation Corridor partners have put out this survey to collect and quantify how our sector has been impacted by the pandemic. Please fill it in and share with others so we can get a thorough collection of information from across the province.

Digital Alberta is a voice for you and your business. We want to continue to advocate for the great work you are all doing in this beautiful province. We know when innovation is hindered, it’s tough for Alberta’s technology sector to showcase to the world what we do best. Alberta’s technology sector can highlight its importance to the global economy by creating innovative solutions to manage the stress and fear about the COVID-19 pandemic, among other day-to-day challenges. This will be particularly effective with enhanced support from provincial leadership.

Technology companies in this province have always been responsive to change. In the past few years, our adaptation to new ways of operating are key indicators of this.

The cancellation of face-to-face tech conferences, and rise of virtual conferences, is one example of this. Lethbridge College’s Merging Realities Conference, being held next week on March 25, will be run through a live stream, and will also offer a VR experience in Altspace. Keynote speaker Amy Lou Abernethy of AMP Creative will talk about the importance of empathy and storytelling in virtual and augmented platforms.

Taproot Edmonton has been excellent at gathering resources from across the province. Alberta Innovates said it will “continue to develop and implement preparedness plans to mitigate both short- and long-term impacts to the Albertans we serve.” Cybera has increased network capacity for member institutions and is “making the Rapid Access Cloud available to Alberta small-to-medium sized enterprises to assist with their move to digital environments.” CommAlert and Punchcard Systems teamed up to launch COVID Continuity, a collection of resources to “support business leaders to understand the challenges and opportunities associated with running your business operations during the COVID-19 outbreak.” SAM has launched new features “to help our users track COVID-19 impact.” We Know Training said its online platforms “will see no interruption of service” and that it is exploring “further opportunities to better support our customers and learners during this challenging time.”

Globally, there have been examples showcasing how technology is helping in the fight against the disease. On March 12, MIT reported it is helping to create diagnostic tests as a backup for physical tests when they are not available for patients. According to a March 16 Tech Crunch article by Natasha Lomas, in the European Union, millions of euros are being made available to technology firms to identify ways to combat the outbreak.

Supporting innovation

The innovation in Alberta can be unleashed if leaders of the tech sector see the potential and value it can bring to the entire province. It is encouraging that there is discussion around the creation of an innovation voucher program being delivered through Alberta Innovates. This should continue to reward the great work being done in this sector.

The challenge that many small and medium sized businesses are facing right now, especially start-ups, is meeting new clients to spur the growth of their business.

A global pandemic does challenge several organizations and sectors to think in new and innovative ways, and there is no better time than right now to test that theory.

Encouraging the growth of this sector during troubling times would be a great move by the provincial government. It would show the trust our leaders place in the technology sector to help Alberta weather this storm, and create innovative new programs and initiatives that can help in this global fight.

Kris Hodgson-Bright
Kris Hodgson-Bright
Kris Hodgson is an instructor in the Digital Communications and Media program at Lethbridge College where he has worked for the past 9 years. He has been a writer and photographer for various publications across western Canada for the last 16 years with a background in journalism and public relations for newspapers and economic development agencies. The completion of work on his master’s degree in Virtual Reality/360-degree journalism from the University of Alberta kick-started applied research opportunities at Lethbridge College. He helped to launch Alberta’s first and Canada’s second Virtual and Augmented Reality certificate program in the fall of 2019 and helps to organize Merging Realities, the world’s first global Virtual Reality conference that is now in its third year showcasing the latest developments from both industry and post-secondary students.