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Team Bombard, working at Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, tweak their app during the final few hours of the challenge. <137>Teams of program developers and designers spent the weekend at Ryerson University's Digital Media Zone during the Great Canadian Appathon, a 48-hour challenge open to post-secondary students throughout the country. (Galit Rodan for The Globe and Mail)<137>Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

An Ottawa-based technology group says more than 51,000 people work in Canada's fast-growing and highly-competitive mobile application industry, with annual revenues totalling roughly $775-million.

The Information and Communications Technology Council, a consulting and market research group that receives some funding from the federal government, says in a report released on Thursday that most of the jobs related to mobile apps in Canada (about 47 per cent) are based in Ontario.

Industry revenues are expected to reach $2.2-billion in 2016, the group says, as Canadians increasingly buy advanced smartphones with applications for everything from mapping and directions to social networking, sports scores, media apps and restaurant reviews. Technical employees – such as programmers – receive an average salary of about $68,000.

Kerry Morrison, CEO of Toronto's Endloop Mobile, a mobile app developer, says every company he knows in the mobile application industry is hiring non-stop, but still can't fill the demand.

"This really feels like the golden age of innovation and technology and it's no stretch at all to attribute that to mobile," he says. "Now, Toronto is the epicentre of tech, innovation and technological growth in this country, so I'm not certain this demand would be all across the country, but certainly in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary – mobile is booming."

On Wednesday, Strategy Analytics, a global research firm, released research noting the number of smartphones worldwide had surpassed the 1-billion mark for the first time – meaning roughly 1 in 7 people around the globe owned a smartphone. In terms of growth, the firm noted it took smartphones roughly 16 years to reach that milestone, but that the next billion is likely to be achieved by 2015, in less than three years.

The ICTC report contains a number of other figures, noting the average price of developing a relatively simple application is about $20,000. Some apps, however, can cost upward of $200,000 and as high as $250,000 for apps built for Apple Inc.'s iPad. Though total employment – both direct and indirect – for Canada's app industry is roughly 51,700, only 22,800 of those are technical roles, such as programmers.

Compared to other industries in Canada, the highly-technical and growing mobile app sector is still quite small: Nearly 1.9 million people work in retail and 1.5 million work in manufacturing, according to Statistics Canada, which determines the figures based on payroll employment.

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