2020 headlines were dominated by COVID-19, and while the year didn’t resemble the “Roaring 20s” many were looking forward to, there was a lot to be inspired by when it comes to Canadian innovation. Here are our top Canadian Tech stories of 2020.
Welcome to a special episode of Hashtag Trending. It’s Monday, December 28, and I’m your host, Alex Coop.
Canada’s precious but vulnerable healthcare system didn’t let the pandemic interrupt its ability to service Canadians. Not only did we see hundreds of hospitals and healthcare centres make the shift to digital, we saw insurance giants like Sun Life Financial back talented startups like Montreal’s Dialogue to the tune of $43 million, clearly signalling the fact that digital is here to stay. It’s safe to say that the future of health increasingly lies in our homes and on our phones, not necessarily in hospitals and clinics.
There was no escape from remote work. On one hand, it gave employees across all sectors newfound freedom to work-out-of-office in sweat pants, effectively eliminating the commute to work and allowing furry companions to join us in Zoom meetings. On the other hand, however, it also brought us Zoom fatigue, logistical headaches, and in many cases, depression and extreme loneliness. This year, we wrote about TD Bank helping 100,000 employees work from home, greatly expanding on their remote work capacity by 80,000 people. Then there was Waterloo, Ont.-based OpenText, which said productivity has mostly remained unchanged, and remote work has gone so well that it’s considering closing half its offices after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite signs that a high-tech, sensor-laden neighbourhood was going to be a reality in Toronto’s east downtown waterfront after successful negotiations between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto in October, the Google-affiliated development company pulled the plug on the entire project in May 2020. Dan Doctoroff, Sidewalk Labs’ chief executive officer, published cited “unprecedented economic uncertainty” from the COVID-19 pandemic as the primary reason behind the exit. Sure. Sidewalk Labs was chosen by Waterfront Toronto in late 2017 to build the city’s first 12-acre “smart neighbourhood” in Toronto’s Quayside region. The project was met with fierce opposition ever since it was announced. Concerns over people’s data not being de-identified at the source, as well as the uncertainty over how a Civic Data Trust would oversee the collection of Quayside data, led a lot of the arguments against the proposal.
There’s no way that we can talk about tech stories in 2020 without mentioning exposure notification apps and COVID Alert. It wasn’t a smooth rollout, and provinces like Alberta tried to jump the gun by publishing its own broken app, but eventually Canada got it right by launching COVID Alert, built on top of the official Apple-Google API. So far in Canada, 9 provinces and territories have adopted the app, which has been downloaded more than 5.7 million times.
That’s all the predictions we have for the telecom industry in 2021. Hashtag Trending is a part of the ITWC Podcast network. Add us to your Alexa Flash Briefing or your Google Home daily briefing. And remember, over the next couple of weeks, we want you to tell us what you think is this year’s biggest Canadian tech story. Let us know on Twitter @ITWorldCa, or leave a comment on the show notes for this episode at ITWorldCanada.com. Respondents will be entered into a draw for a chance to win an IT World Canada mug in the New Year!