The information and communications technology (ICT) sector has become increasingly important to Alberta’s economy in recent years. While digitalization has been underway in Alberta for some time, it was undoubtedly accelerated by the pandemic, causing technology to permeate other, more traditional sectors of the province’s economy. By 2021, verticals like health tech, cleantech, and agtech were important components of Alberta’s technology ecosystem. In fact, according to recent research by Cisco, Alberta ranked fourth in the country for digital readiness in 2023, with the province placing in the top three for “Human Capital” due to its strong labour force.
Despite its success over the years, much of Alberta’s technology activity is in its two largest cities, partially limiting its impact on the rest of the province, including in rural areas. Yet, rural communities are also essential to Alberta’s economy and labour market, and as digital transformation continues across sectors, these communities—and their unique opportunities and needs—will grow and evolve. Today, talent plays a key role as both a barrier and an enabler. Rural employers need a robust and diverse talent base to grow and scale their companies but face multi-pronged barriers to accessing and retaining it.
Although the urban-rural divide will not soon be eclipsed in the province nor across Canada, rural employers are dedicated to innovation; they see technology as a tool to fuel future growth, and digital transformation as an important strategy to attract and retain workers in the future. More, as technology continues to permeate sectors of strength in these areas—like agriculture, energy, and manufacturing—rural Alberta is ripe with opportunity.