When 2020 began, like so many others, I saw the opportunity for technology to help businesses grow, positively impact Canadians and address economic challenges. But I could have never imagined how the year would unfold and the profound impact digital technology would have on our daily lives.
Eight months into the pandemic, I made a purchase from 22 & Lou, where owner Laura Freel makes jams and marmalades out of her home kitchen in Toronto. Laura’s preserves had been flying off local market shelves, but with sudden store closures, she quickly realized that to keep her business alive, she’d have to start selling online. With no previous experience, she signed up for Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE powered by Google program, was paired with a Canadian student to build her website, and in a matter of weeks, her business was back up and running.
Laura’s is just one of the many stories of resilience I’ve heard from business owners across the country. And it’s a story we’re proud to be a part of. Today I’m sharing an update on how our teams worked alongside Canadian businesses and local organizations to support our country’s economic recovery.
Helping Canadian businesses bounce back
We knew it was critical to get small businesses online quickly. That’s why in May, we invested $1 million to expand the ShopHERE program, and made a pledge to get 50,000 Canadian small businesses online. The program is currently operating in nearly 450 municipalities, and will continue to expand across the country, helping businesses like 22 & Lou start selling online.
More than 1.5 million Canadians have visited our Small Business Hub, which provides the tools needed to get online, connect with customers and build digital skills. We made it free for Canadian retailers to list their products on the Google Shopping tab. And to help businesses keep up with the demand for e-commerce, we delivered Google Ads training through Skillshop and Google Academy, and worked with partners like the Retail Council of Canada, Export Development Canada, Startup Canada and Business Development Bank of Canada to deliver free virtual training to over 20,000 Canadian entrepreneurs.
Giving back to local communities
But it’s not just about businesses, we are just as committed to helping the communities in which we live and work. As part of our COVID-19 local response, our Canadian sites donated over $800,000 in Community Grants through our philanthropic arm, Google.org. The organizations that received grants, such as Region Ready, Toronto Public Library Foundation, Kids Code Jeunesse and the Ottawa Food Bank, address critical areas of need, like food insecurity, connectivity, education and PPE for frontline health workers. Through the gift match program Google offers employees annually, Canadian Googlers have raised $1.6 million for organizations in their communities and around the world.
Digital skills training for the future of work
We need to better align the skills of the Canadian workforce with the jobs of the future. This year we transformed our free Grow with Google training to virtual formats and have trained more than 80,000 Canadians on digital skills. With school closures, we trained more than 10,000 Canadian teachers in G Suite for Education, to help them adapt to teaching from home. We also funded community organizations that do critical work to boost digital skills. Google.org announced a $2.5 million grant for NPower Canada, to go toward IT training for 1,700 young adults from underrepresented groups. The first cohort graduated in September, and over half of the graduates have already secured employment just three months post-training. Last week, Google.org announced a $250,000 grant to ComIT, to provide free IT training to 450 Indigenous learners across Canada.
Supporting tech in Canada
We’ll continue our expansion plans to build new offices in Toronto, Montreal and Waterloo. To strengthen our support for the broader tech ecosystem, we launched two accelerators for Canadian startups. Collectively, the Google for Startups Accelerator Canada and Google for Startups Accelerator: Women Founders have enrolled 14 Canadian startups. We’ve also renewed our commitment to Canada’s AI ecosystem with an additional $3.5+ million grant to Mila, the world’s largest deep learning research institute based in Québec.
In a year that has brought about many changes for us all, the pandemic is one thing we all have in common. And collaboration has been our strongest resource. As we all move increasingly online to find products and services, digitization is clearly the next driver of sustained growth for our country. But we can’t do it alone. We’ll continue to work alongside businesses, local organizations and nonprofits into 2021 and beyond.