In a ground-breaking move, Microsoft unveiled plans on November 22, 2023, to fortify its digital presence in Quebec, signaling a monumental leap forward for the province’s burgeoning innovation economy. The tech giant, a pioneer in enterprise-grade, hyper-scale cloud services in Quebec since 2016, is set to inject a staggering USD$500 million into expanding its hyperscale cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure over the next two years.

This strategic investment is poised to catapult Microsoft’s local cloud infrastructure footprint to unprecedented heights, with a jaw-dropping 750 percent increase across the expanse of Canada. The move aligns seamlessly with the company’s commitment to fortify Quebec’s position in the new AI economy, fostering high-value job creation and laying the groundwork for sustained economic growth.

Ernst & Young LLP (EY) concurrently released a report spotlighting Microsoft’s impact in Quebec, revealing that the company, alongside its extensive ecosystem of over 3,200 partners and substantial cloud infrastructure accounts, currently supports over 57,000 jobs and contributes a staggering $6.4 billion annually to Quebec’s GDP.

“Quebec is at the forefront of global innovation on artificial intelligence, with one of the highest concentrations of deep learning researchers in the world. Our Government is committed to working with the partners, like Microsoft, to ensure that all actors in the Canadian AI ecosystem have access to the resources and computing infrastructure they need to advance the commercialization of AI systems here at home, and to advance AI that provides social and economic benefits to all Canadians,” said The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

“Today’s announcement builds on the extensive investments Microsoft has made in Quebec and is just the latest example of our deep commitment to this province,” said Chris Barry, President of Microsoft Canada. “These investments will not only provide Quebec’s private and public sector organizations with more capacity and added resiliency to transform operations but will also enable a trusted and secure foundation to scale solutions faster to market and compete globally, securing Quebec’s future in the digital economy.” 

Digital Expansion: A Quantum Leap in Capacity

Microsoft’s ambitious investment is set to skyrocket Quebec’s digital capacity, with an expected 240 percent increase in computing prowess over the next three years. This infusion of resources not only accelerates the pace of AI innovation but also empowers local organizations to harness the existing technological prowess within the province. Notably, this includes Microsoft’s first-of-its-kind enterprise-grade hyper-scale cloud services launched in 2016.

“This is excellent news for our economy, both in terms of its impact and to attract new investment to our region. The fact that an innovative global company like Microsoft has chosen Quebec for a project of this magnitude demonstrates the quality of foreign investments we are able to attract. It also secures our position in future-forward fields such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.” – Carl Viel, President and CEO of Québec International.

The company is gearing up to construct future datacentre locations in L’Ancienne-Lorette, Donnacona, Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, and Lévis, slated to commence in the coming months. In a bid to align with Microsoft’s sustainability goals, these facilities will employ cutting-edge measures, including the use of low-carbon materials during construction, reliance on renewable energy, advanced cooling features, and a commitment to decreasing diesel fuel use during operation.

Fostering Skills for the Digital Renaissance

Recognizing that the digital transformation and AI advancements demand a skilled workforce, Microsoft is spearheading initiatives in collaboration with industry leaders to equip individuals with the necessary skills for success in the digital economy. These initiatives encompass providing access to learning resources, certifications, and job-seeking tools, aiming to future-proof Quebec’s digital economy against the rapid pace of AI innovation and the rising threat of cybercrime.

KPMG and Microsoft’s Joint Offensive Against Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities

According to the most recent CEO Outlook by KPMG International, a remarkable 93 percent of Canadian CEOs express apprehension about the increasing influence of GenAI, fearing heightened susceptibility to cybersecurity breaches. However, only 56 percent of these CEOs believe they are adequately prepared to confront a potential cyberattack.

KPMG Canada and Microsoft Canada have joined forces to address the pressing concerns of Canadian CEOs regarding the vulnerabilities brought on by GenAI. The Operational Risk Skills Development Centre, a joint initiative representing an investment of $1.7 million over three years, will deliver hands-on French-first training to businesses and governments. This initiative seeks to fortify cybersecurity measures, navigate the nuances of GenAI, and implement responsible practices, ultimately preparing organizations for the evolving digital landscape.

”The creation of the Operational Risk Skills Development Centre marks a significant step in the global alliance between KPMG International and Microsoft,” said Benoit Lacoste Bienvenue, Regional Managing Partner Québec region, KPMG. ”Through this collaboration, we aim to strengthen cybersecurity and make generative AI a transformative opportunity, instead of a threat.”

NPower Canada and Microsoft: Empowering Quebec’s Job-Seekers

In tandem with Microsoft Canada, NPower Canada is expanding its Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator in Quebec, ushering in new opportunities for digital training and career development. With substantial backing from DIGITAL, Microsoft, and the CIBC Foundation, the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator has expanded to establish its first bilingual site for in-person training in Quebec.

As part of this collaboration, NPower Canada will leverage Microsoft curricula to launch its intermediate Junior Data Analyst program in the province, complete with Microsoft Azure AI Fundamentals certification. The initiative aims to equip jobseekers with essential skills for digitally-enabled careers. Applications are currently open for the inaugural cohort, slated to commence in May 2024.

“Microsoft has played a pivotal role in our mission to provide in-demand digital skills and professional development to Quebec’s jobseekers. We are excited to continue our alliance with Microsoft to offer even more opportunities in the province and continue to equip Canadians with the skills they need to thrive in digitally enabled roles,” said Julia Blackburn, CEO, NPower Canada.

In summary, Microsoft’s multi-million dollar commitment signals not only a colossal leap in digital infrastructure but also a pivotal moment in Quebec’s journey toward becoming a technological powerhouse. The ripple effects of this investment are poised to reshape the landscape of innovation, employment, and economic prosperity in the province, propelling it into the forefront of the global AI revolution.