January 12, 2022
The Digital Economy Program (DEP), which supports Edmonton’s small businesses as they establish or upgrade their online operations, starts today.
This program allows small businesses to build their online presence, add eCommerce, create a social media plan and implement other digital practices to help their business thrive. Businesses can apply now at yourDEP.ca.
“Over 95 per cent of businesses in Alberta are small businesses, and supporting Edmonton’s small business community is absolutely crucial in the competitive digital landscape,” said Jeff Chase, Branch Manager, Economic Investment Services. “This free service will be a game-changer for many businesses as they adopt new technology to increase sales, and as a result, hire more staff and build our economy.”
The DEP is a province-wide extension of the Making Edmonton Digital (MED) program that is funded by the Government of Alberta, Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation. It will be delivered locally through a partnership between the University of Alberta, the City of Edmonton and Business Link, using the Digital Main Street online platform.
Funding will be used to create Digital Service Squads made up of students who will pair with small businesses to provide a needs assessment, create customized work plans and teach business owners how to use each digital channel. The DEP supports commitments that were made under Alberta’s Recovery Plan to protect Albertans’ livelihoods, increase the competitiveness of Alberta businesses and diversify the economy.
“The success story is not for the businesses alone,” said Heather Thomson, Director, University of Alberta Centre for Cities and Communities. “Our local students also benefited from this program. During the first phase, MED employed 32 student consultants for over a year with flexible hours and invaluable experience. This next phase will need even more student consultants over the course of 18 months. What a great opportunity for our next generation of professionals to gain experience helping our business community."
The previous program, Making Edmonton Digital (MED), started in September 2020 as a partnership created with the University of Alberta School of Retail from a $75,000 grant from the Edmonton Economic Recovery Grant program. MED was awarded an additional $350,000 grant from Western Economic Diversification in order to extend the timeline of program delivery.
The goal of MED was to help 630 businesses, with at least 25 per cent of business owners being from marginalized or disadvantaged backgrounds. As of October 1, 2021, the City helped 706 businesses, with 39 per cent of those business owners coming from marginalized or disadvantaged backgrounds. MED had a satisfaction rating of 93 per cent.
To be eligible for the DEP, businesses must fit the following criteria:
- be registered in Alberta
- employ zero to 49 employees (this includes self-employed business owners with no employees)
- be a home-based or commercial business
Applications for the DEP are open until March 2023.