ROGER TAYLOR: Nova Scotia IT funding aims to grow the digital economy

The pandemic has helped prove that Nova Scotia’s economic future largely depends on building its digital economy, said Andrew Rau-Chaplin.

Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Computer Science Dean Rau-Chaplin said the pandemic has accelerated the need for digital skills, allowing people to stay productive from anywhere.

Due to technology, a relatively low cost of living and a more relaxed lifestyle, he said, Nova Scotia has become an attractive place to relocate.

Rau-Chaplin insisted, even though many Nova Scotians might not believe it, that Nova Scotia is already on the leading edge of the digital economy. The demand for digital talent in the province is growing faster than the available workforce.

The ability to write code is not only essential for the computer related industries; it has spread to all sectors of the economy, from medicine, the arts and tourism to agriculture and fish processing factories, he said.

For example, in Dal’s master’s program, each student experiences a paid four-month industrial internship, with 100% placement each year. Rau-Chaplin said if there were twice as many students, the school would still have internships for everyone.

Increased digital adoption is key to a more prosperous future of well-paying and flexible jobs for the next generation, he said, which is why IT is growing to create a pipeline of people diverse and talented contributing to a thriving digital economy in Nova Scotia. and Atlantic Canada.

Recently, Dalhousie announced that it is launching a new initiative under the slogan Here We Code, which aims to encourage more Nova Scotians to consider careers in the digital world.

There is nothing new in the drive to train more people for the digital economy. In March, the previous Nova Scotia government announced it would give $ 16.8 million to four universities to improve computer science programs. The allocation of funding was based on the total enrollment in the computer science program at each university: Dalhousie, $ 13.3 million; Acadie, $ 1.47 million; Saint Mary’s, $ 1.27 million; Saint Francis Xavier, $ 794,000.

The We Code Here campaign, says Dalhousie, is an attempt to attract more students to computer science. For the more political, the announcement can also be seen as a reminder to the new Progressive Conservative government that funds have been committed to develop the computer component of the provincial economy.

“We look forward to working with Nova Scotia’s vibrant digital ecosystem to grow the talent pool and truly showcase what we have to offer as a province and region,” said Rau-Chaplin.

Dal is already promoting his computer science faculty as the largest technology education and research center in Atlantic Canada. Over the next five years, however, its total student body will reach 2,500, with hundreds graduating annually, in addition to research and professional masters students, several of whom will be seeking employment in province and region.

While having math skills is helpful, said Rau-Chaplin, the key attribute for people entering computer science today is critical thinking and problem solving, regardless of their basic knowledge. in coding or in technology.

Participation in the digital economy requires skilled digital workers, but there is a shortage. Supporters of IT funding cite a KPMG Business Outlook Survey that suggests Canadian companies are struggling to find talent with the digital skills needed to make their businesses globally competitive.

The inability to attract or retain skilled digital talent has been identified as the biggest threat to growth prospects.

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