Canada’s mobile app economy is growing – and new jobs are growing along with it, to the tune of about 64,100 new positions created across the country since smartphones began to surface on people’s radar in 2007.
In a new report called “The Appification of Everything: Canadas Apps Economy Value Chain,” the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) projects that about 110,000 Canadians are slated to work in the apps economy in five years. It also found that right now, companies that build apps in Canada generate about $1.7 billion in revenue, with that figure estimated to go up to $5.2 billion by 2019.
In terms of location, 28,700 of these jobs are currently based in Ontario. Another 14,000 can be found in Quebec, while 8,800 are in British Columbia and 6,600 are in Alberta. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan are all home to roughly 1,000 to 1,600 app-related jobs apiece.
The paper used a mix of other academic literature, consultations, focus group discussions, existing available data, and more than 100 interviews with CEOs, CFOs, and company presidents to reach its conclusions.
Given that smartphones and mobile apps are now tightly woven into our daily lives, it’s no surprise the Canadian app economy is rapidly burgeoning, says Sharif Faisal, an economist with the ICTC and one of the authors of the paper.
“Most people who own a cellphone wake up to an alarm clock on their phone, which is an app. Then they plan to go to work and they open the Go train or the Go bus app … to check the bus timing to see when the bus is coming,” he says.
“And on the way to work, we check the IT World Canada app or the Globe and Mail app to check what’s going on around the world. And during the day, we pay our bills and whatever else we do. So you can see from first thing in the morning, ‘til last thing at night, when we turn off our light, it’s all about apps and we’re using apps to edit documents, to do this, that, and everything.”
However, since the smartphone is a relatively new invention, many of these app-producing companies are also very young. In fact, about three of every five app companies in Ontario were created in the last five years, the ICTC report found.
So how did Canada’s app economy grow so quickly?
One reason is there aren’t too many barriers to entry to create apps, the report observed. To develop an app for any mobile platform, a developer needs to have programming skills and a computer, but not much more than that.
However, as it’s not too difficult to create apps, many other countries can also break into the app economy. So the real reason for Canada’s success in app development thus far is its “first movers advantage,” Faisal says.
“Canadian companies … have an advantage because as you can imagine, when someone’s ordering or commissioning out work to develop an app, they would like to see a track record. What kind of apps did you develop before?” he says, adding many Canadian companies have been building apps as early as 2007, and certainly by 2010, when the space began to take off.
“Plus our educators, our academic institutions, our employers – they’re trying to play a proactive role, so a lot of educational programs are coming where they’re taking this phenomenon into consideration and trying to design their programs so that their graduates can immediately start working in this area.”
One other interesting finding from the study was that more and more app companies are building B2B apps, as opposed to ones that are more consumer-facing, Faisal adds.
About 53 per cent of the apps created in Ontario, Canada’s hub for mobile app development, were focused on business, with the other categories carved up into other categories like communications, games, digital media, education, social, shopping, and so on.
In the meantime, Faisal says he doesn’t believe the app economy will level off any time soon. For the next three to five years, the app economy should continue to grow, he adds. After that, it could taper off, depending on whatever technology appears next.