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Whether we are shopping online, waiting for a rideshare or playing video games with friends, the cloud is fueling our everyday lives in once unimaginable ways. As Canadian consumers, we rely on the cloud to make life more convenient, accessible and connected, but as businesses – both in the public and private sectors – we have not yet reached our true potential.

In their 2019 Global Competitiveness Report, the World Economic Forum found that Canada ranks 35th in the world on Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) adoption and 16th in terms of innovation capability – that means we’re close to ‘the frontier,’ but not yet a powerhouse. Being a proud Canadian, ranking 35th and 16th in anything, let alone a key economic driver, simply doesn't feel right.

As a technology company, Microsoft and our partners across the country play a key role in helping Canada make that leap. We believe every organization has the ability to be a ‘tech intense’ company, provided they have the trusted solutions and required skills they need to thrive in today’s global economy.

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In 2016, Microsoft was the first hyperscale cloud provider to touchdown in Canada, unveiling two Canadian cloud regions in Toronto and Quebec City. Since then, tens of thousands of customers have adopted the Microsoft Azure to redefine their business and industry.

Doctors and researchers at University Health Network are leveraging Azure to unlock new ways for more precise treatments for cancer patients.

Loblaw, the country’s largest retailer, is using Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, data and the cloud to better personalize the shopping experience for their customers as part of the PC Optimum loyalty program; and Suncor Energy recently announced that they are tapping into the full range of Microsoft cloud solutions – and Microsoft hardware – to improve safety, productivity and ultimately sustainability, through AI, machine learning, enhanced automation and Industrial IoT.

Other organizations that call our Canadian cloud home include the healthcare division of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), PCL, CIBC and insurance/wealth management giant iA Group, among many others.

These customers have unique needs and regulatory environments, but they chose Azure because they trust in the unparalleled reliability and security of the Microsoft cloud.

To help fuel even more innovation in Canada, Microsoft recently announced significant Canadian investments including new Azure Availability Zones in our Azure Canada Central region, increasing compute capacity by 1300 per cent since the region was first brought online in 2016.

We also announced we will be significantly increasing capacity in our Azure East Region over the first half of the year and adding an ExpressRoute site in Vancouver giving customers the option to create private connections to Microsoft cloud.

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These investments mean that we’re not just expanding the size of our cloud capacity, we’re also providing higher availability, performance and resilience so that Canadian businesses have the tools and the confidence to rapidly scale. With this addition, Microsoft will be the only hyperscale cloud provider in Canada to offer Availability Zones and disaster recovery with in-country data residency.

This is critical as organizations with strict data residency requirements, including the public sector, are starting to set their sights on leveraging the cloud. Microsoft was recently one of the first global cloud providers to achieve Certification for Protected B data in Canada, which enables federal government departments to securely store, manage and process its most sensitive data and applications in the Microsoft cloud. This has unleashed enormous digital transformation opportunities across the public sector with businesses like the Ministry of Transportation, Schulich School of Business and many others trusting that their sensitive data is stored securely and locally in the Microsoft Cloud.

The expansion of Azure Availability Zones in Canada, coupled with one of the industry’s most secure cloud platforms, makes Azure the ideal choice for the challenging demands of mission critical computing. This means that more highly regulated industries like sensitive financial and public sector customers will have the confidence to enable to innovate in the cloud.

The additional investments that we are making in Canada align to significant skilling programs and innovation centre investments available to public and private institutions and students coast to coast.

Future growth across all industries will be driven by applying a new breed of digital technologies – AI, machine learning, intelligent cloud and intelligent edge computing – to more effectively engage consumers, transform products and services, optimize operations and empower employees.

Our partners and customers will be better equipped to meet the demands of their clients, while governments and other public agencies will be able to better serve their constituents, quickly and conveniently. But to realize the incredible opportunity and become a global powerhouse in the digital economy, Canadian organizations must take advantage of these innovations.

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When it comes to being a nation of innovators and technology adopters, we can do way better than being ranked 16th and 35th. The time for action is now.

Kevin Peesker is president of Microsoft Canada responsible for leading a world class team who delivers transformative outcomes for Canadians.

This content was produced by Microsoft. The Globe and Mail was not involved in its creation.

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