The Ontario government is giving small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across the province a leg up in their digital transformation efforts.

Last Friday the Ontario Business Improvement Area (BIA) Association announced that the City of Toronto’s Digital Main Street initiative, started by the city’s municipal government and the Toronto BIA Association (TABIA), is now available across the province.

The initiative, which helps small businesses adopt digital tools such as e-commerce platforms and social media, is funded by the Province of Ontario.

“Today’s announcement marks the start of an important program for Ontario’s small businesses and our communities,” OBIAA executive director Kay Matthews said in an Aug. 23 statement.. “Small main street businesses are the heart of our communities, and we are committed to ensuring that they continue to flourish. Being digital is now a vital part of business success and we are passionate about ensuring that small businesses get the support they need.”

Toronto started its Digital Main Street initiative in 2016 as a response to the fact that its “main streets were under increasing threat from new shopping behaviours and technology,” according to an April 11 release on the Digital Main Street website. With support from several prominent technology companies, notably Google, Mastercard, Rogers, Shopify, and Microsoft, the initiative has supported more than 5,000 small businesses in Toronto.

In the April 11 release, Toronto mayor John Tory called Digital Main Street “an important tool in helping small businesses in Toronto adapt to the new realities of a digital economy.”

The expanded version of Digital Main Street, which officially went live on Aug. 24, invites small businesses across the province to register for a variety of free services, including the Digital Main Street Assessment tool, an online survey that evaluates their current digital transformation efforts and offers advice on how to improve them.

Other Digital Main Street services include digital training, local service support, and grants worth up to $2,500 to help businesses adopt digital technology.

All services are supported by the Digital Main Street website, which also includes a pre-screened directory of digital vendors across the province.

Prospective vendors interested in adding their tools to the directory can sign up here.

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