Technology Challenges in Canada

Part
01
of five
Part
01

COVID Impact n Business Continuity

Nearly 54% of Canadian businesses have reported a drop in sales, and an additional 28% have had to temporarily shut down operations altogether, due to the impact of the current pandemic, thereby, impacting their business continuity. Also, only 29% of Canadian companies have a pandemic business continuity plan in place. We have provided below a detailed overview of the impact of COVID-19 on business continuity in Canada.

COVID Impact on Canadian Business Continuity

Many Businesses Still Feel Unprepared to Open

  • According to a Salesforce survey of Canadian businesses, nearly 30% of the businesses stated that they do not feel prepared to open and continue their businesses during the pandemic. One of the top reasons for the same is that almost half (44%) of the businesses don't have a health and safety work plan in place.
  • Additionally, nearly 25% of Canadian businesses lack a clear vision and don't know where to start when it comes to reopening and continuing their business. Also, the lack of sound technology during COVID-19 is hampering the business continuity of many Canadian businesses.
  • As per the above-mentioned Salesforce survey, almost 20% of Canadian businesses have been unable to adapt to today's environment due to the lack of the right technology in place. On the contrary, nearly 60% of the businesses felt prepared to reopen and continue their operations during the pandemic because they were able to leverage technology to quickly pivot and adapt to the current situation.
  • Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, 76% of Canadian businesses feel a sense of urgency to implement the right technology to help their business continuity in the future. Nearly 83% of businesses agree that technology has allowed them to sustain and continue their business operations in the current slowdown.
  • As per a survey by Citrix, 61% of Canadian IT leaders mentioned that they are accelerating their move to the cloud as a result of the pandemic. Also, only 29% of companies have a pandemic business continuity plan in place.
  • According to a survey by Statistics Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, due to the impact of COVID-19 on their finances, nearly 40% of Canadian businesses feel that they would not be able to sustain and continue their business operations for more than three months even if they decide to open.
  • Also, despite substantial aid from the government, many Canadian businesses, given their depleted finances due to the low consumer demand during the pandemic, are worried about the impact of debt and taxes on the continuity of their business operations, and hence feel jittery to reopen.

Impact on Financial Resources Hampering Business Continuity

  • According to the data from Statistics Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, more than 50% of Canadian companies have lost at least 20% of their revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This poses a great challenge to the business continuity of these businesses.
  • The data highlights that nearly 32.3% of Canadian businesses have lost 40% of their revenues during the pandemic, and nearly 21.2% of the businesses have witnessed at least a 20% impact on their sales. In aggregate, more than 80% of businesses across the country have reported a "medium to high drop in demand for their products or services."
  • As a result of reduced business operations and revenue, the companies across Canada are cutting down on staff salaries and employee count to continue their business operations. As per data from Statistics Canada, nearly 38.1% of Canadian organizations have cut down upon employee working hours or shifts, nearly 13.4% of companies have reduced employee salaries or wages, and 40.5% of companies have laid off employees as part of their business continuity efforts.
  • Among other measures, nearly 34% of business owners are reducing operating expenses, 29% are dipping into savings, and nearly 15% are applying for more credit to sustain themselves and continue their business.
  • Additionally, many companies have made on the fly adjustments to their business processes to minimize the impact of the pandemic and continue their business operations. Nearly 20% of the businesses have changed their production process to stay open during the pandemic, and more than 40% have started to adapt to work from home culture for their employees. Consequently, 60% of companies are hopeful that they will be able to get back to normal within one month of physical distancing measures being removed.
  • According to a CIBC study, COVID-19 has negatively impacted the business operations of nearly 81% of Canadian small business owners, and almost 32% among them are worried about the viability and continuity of their business over the next year.
  • The impact on revenues is more pronounced in the case of small businesses. Nearly 60% of small businesses with 1 to 4 employees and about 56% of those with 5 to 19 employees have reported a 20% or more YoY decline in their Q1'20 revenue.
  • To tackle the impact of the same and maintain continuity of their business operations, 47% of small businesses with 5 to 19 employees that laid off at least one employee, have laid off 80% or more of their staff, and nearly 40% of them have requested credit from a financial institution. Also, 22% of small businesses with 5 to 19 employees and nearly 23% of businesses with 20 to 99 employees have had their rent deferred.

Work Refusals & Poor Employee Mental Health Hampering Business Continuity

  • As per a survey by Teladoc, nearly 50% of Canadian employees feel that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the current pandemic. Poor employee mental health hampers employee productivity, thereby impacting smooth business operations and business continuity.
  • Also, 52% of Canadian employees aged 18-34 and 37% of those aged 65 or older have reported a negative impact on their mental health due to the current pandemic.
  • Realizing the significance of employee mental health for business continuity, 39% of Canadian employers are taking actions to support the mental health of their employees, and have added workplace mental health resources and have opened a dialogue around workplace mental health. Some employers have also waived fees for mental health support of their employees.
  • Additionally, the issue of work refusals can have a serious impact on the continuity of Canadian businesses. According to Mondaq, due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic generally, workplaces that are reopening may see an increase in COVID-19-related work refusals. As per a survey by Citrix, nearly 77% of Canadian IT leaders believe that employees won't return to office as normal after COVID-19.
  • According to a survey by Morneau Shepell, 27% of Canadian employees feel that employers should provide clear guidance on how to prevent spreading or getting the virus, and 23% feel that employers should provide support to deal with mental anxiety. The survey also indicates that the level of mental health support an employer provides to its employees has an impact on its business operations and continuity.
Part
02
of five
Part
02

Transitioning to Mobile Workforce in Canada

Statistics show that most Canadian workers are happy with the transition to remote working. Although some workers have reported declining productivity, most of them are enjoying an improved work-life balance by working from home. A comprehensive coverage of the insights/examples is presented below.

Happy with Transition

  • Remote working is increasingly growing to be the ‘new normal’ in the wake of COVID-19 in many countries across the world, including Canada. Approximately 4.7 million workers in Canada had been used to working in dedicated spaces. However, they are slowly adjusting to the new order that requires them to work from home.
  • Although different companies have expressed different results in the transition, most Canadians have expressed their contentment with the transition to remote working. Statistics show that 67.91% of Canadians working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic review their transition as seamless.
  • On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being poor and 5 being perfect, many Canadian workers rated the transition as a 4 equivalent to 47.87%. 13.39% rated the transition as perfect. The survey conducted by Sykes involved a sample of 726 people.
  • Other studies have also observed a high success rate among Canadians in their transition to remote working. Such statistics about the seamless transition underscore the fact that remote working may continue even after the pandemic.

Productivity

  • Productivity has also been a key issue in the transition to remote working. While the variance in productivity perceptions could be attributed to different experiences working remotely, several studies have illuminated the issues.
  • According to a survey by Skyes, 38.69% of Canadian workers feel that their productivity while working remotely has been less. Conversely, 22.63% feel that their productivity has improved while 38.69% observe that their output has been constant.
  • In another survey by ServiceNow, 26% of office workers in Canada feel that they are not well set to work remotely. 32% feel that they are less productive while working at home compared to when they used to work in their usual workplaces.
  • The survey also found that 44% of employees attributed the declining productivity to their employer’s unpreparedness with the transition. 37% also considered technology to be a barrier to productivity. 83% of employees in Canada feel that their employer is not providing them with the state-of-art technology needed to facilitate remote working.
  • Other barriers include mental state with 28%, taking care of others with 29%, and lack of a definite working space at home with 23%.
  • 51% reported that improved technology could help in increasing productivity. 26% felt that access to specific software that facilitates collaboration, communication, and workflow management can make them more productive.
  • Looking into the future, remote work software such as virtual reality conferencing will become more popular. Artificial intelligence will also be an integral component when managing remote staff.

Flexibility

  • Remote working has also come with enhanced flexibility for Canadians. 50% of the employees are already utilizing the flexibility advantage provided by working from home.
  • A survey by Robert half found that 55% of Canadian office professionals have a better work-life balance after transitioning to remote working. 57% feel that remote working creates more time for personal projects and hobbies.
  • The fact that employees working from home do not need to commute is a key source of flexibility. 69% feel that working from home saves the commuting time. They are using the saved time to attend to other personal responsibilities.
  • With 85% of employees expecting their organizations to allow them work from home more frequently, flexibility is going to be a key factor in the future. Employees will start to value flexibility and view companies that do not offer it less favorably.
Part
03
of five
Part
03

Home and Internet Security in Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the home internet protection and security in Canada as fraudsters and cyber threat actors use the current crisis to profit. As the security of the computer network infrastructures in the country is being compromised, the government also launched some initiatives to keep Canadians protected online. These and other details are presented below.


Current State of COVID-19-Related Fraud and Identity Theft in Canada

  • The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) is the central repository of Canada for any information about fraud. It helps Canadians recognize, report, and protect themselves against fraud.
  • These cases resulted in approximately $5.55 million in total losses.
  • CAFC advised consumers to protect themselves from fraudsters who are exploiting the current crisis to facilitate cybercrime and fraud. These people profit from consumers' fear, misinformation, and uncertainties due to the pandemic.
  • The center released COVID-19 fraud alert to help Canadians be informed on how cybercriminals work, protect their information, report scams, and coordinate only with trusted Canadian resources.
  • According to CAFC, frauds were initiated through social networks such as fake accounts, in which stolen information and photos of legitimate people will be used by scammers to create their accounts.
  • Social media bots are also used to automatically generate automated messaging like fake reviews and advertising.
  • Since scammers are well aware that the citizens spend more time on social media during this pandemic, they can trick users to give them information by posting free-trial ads, offering fake job opportunities, and promoting merchandise at a discount.
  • When these scammers gain access to users' social media accounts, all information can also be accessed. This information will then be used for blackmail, identity theft, fake ads publishing, or even target other contacts on the users' list.

New Attacks from APT29 on COVID-19-Related Research in Canada

  • On July 16, 2020, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) of Canada released an advisory informing their people regarding the possible attacks from a hacker group called APT29, also known as Cozy Bear or The Dukes. The group is tied to Russian intelligence services.
  • Traditionally, APT29 attacks were consistently focused on national security interests. But since the information pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic is such a major national security priority, experts think that the severity of the pandemic could be the reason for APT29's sudden interest in the stealing of intellectual property.
  • To avoid compromising their credentials, people were advised to be extra careful and to know the best practices in identifying and reporting suspicious emails.

Compromises on Computer Network Infrastructures in Canada

  • The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (CCCS or Cyber Centre) stated that cyber threat actors are currently taking advantage of the pandemic and use it as a thematic lure to perform cybercrime and cyber espionage (or cyberspying).
  • The CCCS noted that cyber espionage in Canada attempts to steal Canadian intellectual properties that are related to COVID-19 medical research, as well as the government's responses.
  • Since January 2020, these actors have developed COVID-19-related content leading victims to click on malicious attachments and links. Examples of contents are statistics on infection rates, public health updates, information on cures and treatments, and access to medical supplies.
  • Below are some notable examples of COVID-19-themed lures in Canada:
    • The Medical Officer of Health of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) was impersonated and sent phishing emails to deliver malware through an attachment claiming to be an important update on COVID-19.
    • Cybercriminals pretended to be the Government of Canada and sent SMS messages directing the citizens to access the “Canada-alert-covid19[dot]com” website which prompted them to download a malicious application.
    • In mid-April, a foreign cyber threat actor compromised a Canadian biopharmaceutical company and almost steal its intellectual property.
  • COVID-19 lures are usually found in phishing email campaigns that distribute information-stealing malware on mobile devices and personal computers.

How the Government of Canada Protect Its People

  • The CCCS partnered with the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) to heighten the cybersecurity bar in Canada and make sure that Canadians are protected online.
  • CIRA is the agency that manages Canada's [dot]ca internet domain and uses threat intelligence provided by CCCS.
  • It provides 3 layers of protection that users can choose from: Private (keeps DNS data private), Protected (blocks malware and phishing), and Family (a combination of Private and Protected features).

Part
04
of five
Part
04

Technology Challenges in Canada

Slow connectivity, high cost of internet access, and lack of educational resources are some technology challenges facing remote and inner-city communities in Canada. Remote communities are at a disadvantage in accessing and utilizing digital technologies due to inadequate infrastructure, limited road networks, and sparse local talent.

Slow Connectivity

  • Innovative, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) Canada has maintained that the country needs to improve on its communication networks to enhance internet services in its rural communities, which are grossly underserved.
  • According to the standards set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), only 37% of households in rural communities and 24% of indigenous communities have access to 50Mbps download and 10Mbps upload speeds.
  • This situation has worsened since the pandemic, with the connectivity speed dropping as far as 50 times less than the threshold set by the CRTC.
  • Compared to bigger metropolitan cities, residents of remote communities in Canada only have access to unreliable and slow internet access resulting in a national connectivity gap.
  • Weak business cases, the country's varied geography, and difficulty in acquiring funds are some barriers to achieving reliable and fast internet access in remote communities in Canada.
  • The Canadian Government, in its 2019 budget, made provisions to help improve the connectivity gap in the country by awarding 1.7 billion CAD to that effect and 6 billion CAD in total to improve internet access across the country.
  • Canada's Minister of Rural Economic Development, in 2019, launched an initiative, High-Speed Access for All: Canada's Connectivity Strategy, to help improve internet access across Canada and bridge the connectivity gap between rural and urban communities.


High Cost of Digital Technologies

  • Not only is internet access unreliable in remote communities in Canada, but it is also quite expensive. Remote communities are reportedly paying a higher amount to gain internet access compared to urban communities.
  • According to a report by Rising Voices, numerous residents in remote communities cannot afford the high cost of accessing and using digital technologies. Those who have access to high-speed internet in small communities consider it too expensive.
  • The high expense of connectivity in the remote communities is due to the limited and unsubsidized road networks, lack of local talents, and inadequate digital infrastructure.
  • This challenge is aggravated in small towns, indigenous, and northern communities. This problem is posing a setback in preparing small towns and rural areas for "21st-century digital engagement."
  • The broadband initiative, High-Speed Access for All: Canada's Connectivity Strategy, will not only improve internet access in remote and indigenous areas, but it will also reduce the cost of connectivity in these areas, by making sure that the costs associated with operating networks and deployment are reduced.


Limited Educational Resources

  • Considering Canada's varied geography, there are challenges in providing educational resources to remote communities, especially in the northern area of the country.
  • Due to the sparse and varied population in the north, many residents have limited access to tertiary education as there are only a few higher education learning centers.
  • Limited access to digital technologies also reduces access to distance learning opportunities, restricting the ability to achieve financial health and sustainability.
  • Remote communities are at a further disadvantage when it comes to tech investments and startups. Many companies are willing to establish in communities that "can sustain and nourish tech." Communities like this are driven by education (tertiary), which is less available in remote areas compared to metropolitan areas.
  • Limited educational resources also mean limited local talents resulting from training and skill deficit. In order to measure up to metropolitan areas, remote communities may need to leverage regional education and distance learning.
Part
05
of five
Part
05

Technology's Role in Diversity

Using video interviews to reduce biases in recruitment, using technology to increases employment chances for people with disabilities, and encouraging tech startups to revive Canada's economy are some examples that show the value of technology in increasing diversity in the workplace/access to opportunities post COVID in Canada. Systematic video-interviewing enables job applicants to establish a deeper relationship with the interviewers, reducing the chances of unconscious biases. Canada's manufacturing sector, retail sector, and energy sector already depend on enabling tech companies and if the techs fail, a large portion of the Canadian economy will also fail and result in massive job losses.

Using Video Interviews Helps Reduce Bias in Recruitment

Technology Increases Employment Chances for People with Disabilities

Tech Startups to Revive Canada's Economy

  • The Innovation Economy Council of Canada shows that it is the tech startups that are best placed to revive the country's economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Council reports that over the past two years the performance of tech firms in Canada has been increasing steadily and that the software publishers sector grew by about 14% from 2009-2018.
  • As companies try to work more efficiently, technology will be required to enable smarter, faster, and cheaper operations. OMERS, for example, invested about $755 million to its venture-capital arm to enable the company to realize high growth and high employment rates. The company says the need for expansion is even greater now due to the COVID-19 impact on the economy.
  • According to the Innovation Economy Council, Canada's manufacturing sector, retail sector, and energy sector are already highly dependent on enabling tech companies. Statistics indicate that if the techs fail, a large portion of the Canadian economy will also fail and result in massive job losses.
  • The tech startups that are already operational in Canada include Daisy Intelligence transforming retail data analytics, LED Roadway Lighting creating smarter street lights, Peak Power building a more sustainable grid, and NRStor making energy storage more efficient.
Sources
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