The Canadian Digital Adoption Program: What is it and how do I apply?

Canada is taking exciting new steps to increase digital adoption across the country with their new Digital Adoption Program (CDAP). From helping businesses stay competitive to creating jobs and growing the economy, accelerated digital adoption can help Canada recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At AI Guides, we’re excited about the opportunities this plan will give Canadian-owned businesses to gain all the benefits new technologies have to offer–especially because we get the opportunity to be a Digital Advisor within the program. As a Canadian-owned business ourselves, we provide vendor-agnostic guidance to the right artificial intelligence solutions.  

Why are we so excited? Of course it’s to share our experience and expertise on how artificial intelligence can grow businesses, but it’s also because the CDAP…

  • Is expected to support as many as 160,000 small businesses and help create thousands of jobs
  • Will create nearly 30,000 job placements for young Canadians in addition to other thousands of jobs 
  • Consists of funding of $1.4 billion in grants and advisory services to SMEs and up to $2.6 billion in loans from the Business Development Bank of Canada

We could go on about the benefits of this program, but we know you want to know what exactly the Canadian Digital Adoption Program is, how you can apply, and how to best take advantage of the Digital Adoption Program for your business. And of course, we’ll get into a lot more details about digital advisors, and finding the best one for you.  

What is the Canadian Digital Adoption Program (CDAP)? 

The Canadian Digital Adoption Program was created to help small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada upgrade or adopt digital technologies and grow their online presence. 

The program will support up to 160,000 businesses by providing $4 billion over four years to create jobs, leverage e-commerce opportunities, digitize their operations, and take advantage of new technologies. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the goals of the program clear: “Small businesses have shown incredible resilience over the last two years as they faced unprecedented challenges from the pandemic. Supporting them has been – and will continue to be – a top priority for our government. That’s why we’re launching the Canada Digital Adoption Program to empower small businesses with the digital tools they need, while helping them create good jobs, particularly for young Canadians.”

Who can use the Canadian Digital Adoption Program? 

Any small- or medium-sized Canadian-owned businesses interested in digitally transforming their business–whether that be through digital marketing, e-commerce, technology, or other digital investments–can apply for the Canadian Digital Adoption Program. 

Depending on businesses’ sizes, needs, and goals, they can apply for funding through the Grow Your Business Onlineor Boost your Business Technology streams.

Stream 1: Grow Your Business Online

The Grow Your Business Online Stream is applicable for smaller businesses–those making less than 500k in revenue. Sponsored by ISED (IInnovation, Science and Economic Development Canada), this grant was created to help up to 90,000 small businesses through micro-grants of up to $2,400. 

These grants are provided by local and regional service providers across Canada to help with the adoption of digital technologies, and support a network of e-commerce advisors who will help small businesses adopt e-commerce.

To be eligible for Digital Adoption Program Stream 1, your business: 

  • Is for-profit (including for-profit social enterprises and co-operatives)
  • Is registered or incorporated 
  • Is consumer-facing
  • Should be accessible by consumers or provides in-person services to consumers
  • Has at least one employee
  • Must commit to maintaining digital adoption strategy for six months after participation in the program
  • Must consent to participating in follow-up surveys, sharing information with the Government of Canada (ISED and Statistics Canada), and having the name of the business published as a recipient of funding

Do note that real estate brokerages, multi-level marketing company representatives, and corporate chains, franchises or registered charities are not eligible. 

 

Stream 2: Boost Your Business Technology Stream

Small and medium-sized companies that have a minimum of $500K in revenues in 2020, 2019, or 2018 are eligible for the Boost Your Business Technology stream. Businesses in this stream get access to a marketplace of digital adoption experts to help them develop a digital adoption plan and adopt new technologies–and a grant to make this possible. 

The grants received through this stream cover up to 90% of the eligible cost of retaining the services of a digital advisor, up to a maximum grant value of $15,000. Plus, the Boost Your Business Technology Stream businesses also have the opportunity to secure a 0% interest loan from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) for the same end– facilitating the acquisition of new technology–and applicants can also get help from post-secondary students and recent graduates through subsidized work placements.

Isabelle Hudon, President and CEO of the Business Development Bank of Canada, shared her excitement for their role in the CDAP: “Canada’s small- and medium-sized businesses need more tools, more resources, and more financing to go digital. This is what our clients shared with us and the reason why BDC is so pleased to be part of the Canada Digital Adoption Program and offer advice and zero per cent interest loans to entrepreneurs, helping them meet their clients’ evolving needs. This is an investment in Canada’s future competitiveness and growth.”

Do note, the zero-percent loan is only for businesses that are eligible under Stream 2: Boost Your Business Technology.

To be eligible for Digital Adoption Program Stream 2, your business must:  

  • Be incorporated federally or provincially, or be a Canadian resident sole proprietor
  • Be a for-profit, privately owned business
  • Have between 1 – 499 full time equivalent employees
  • Have at least $500,000 of annual revenues in one of the previous three tax years

 

How to Apply to Digital Adoption Program in Canada Grow Your Business Online Stream

1. Determine Eligibility 

For the first step, use the grant assessment tool provided by the Canadian government to determine if your business is eligible, as well as if it’s best suited for the Grow Your Business Online grant. 

If you have made at least  $500,000 of annual revenues in one of the previous three tax years, are a for-profit, privately owned business, as well as other criteria, you may be eligible for Stream 2: Boost Your Business Technology instead. 

2. Speak with Local Service Providers

Interested businesses will be directed to local service providers in their home province or region for details on how to apply for the grant. These providers will ensure that your business meets the eligibility requirements before you apply. 

3. Apply! 

You can start filing out your application here by finding your local service provider. 

4. Adopt Digital Technology 

If accepted, you’ll receive a micro-grant through your local provider of up to $2,400 to help with the costs related to adopting digital technologies, as well as get support from a network of e-commerce advisors. 

How to Apply to the Digital Adoption Program in Canada Boost Your Business Technology Stream

1. Determine Eligibility 

The first step is making sure the Boost Your Business Technology Stream is right for your company. You can use the grant assessment tool provided by the Canadian government to do so. 

Then before applying to this stream, ensure your business does all of the following: be incorporated federally or provincially, or be a Canadian resident sole proprietor; be a for-profit, privately owned business; has between 1 – 499 full time equivalent employees; and has at least $500,000 of annual revenues in one of the previous three tax years.

2. Apply!

To apply to this stream, you’ll need to complete a Digital Needs Assessment (DNA) that determines your businesses’ “digital readiness” by generating a report on your company’s digital maturity compared to an industry-specific benchmark. 

You can get started applying for Stream 2 here.

3. Build a digital adoption plan with your digital advisor 

Next is a very exciting step: choosing your digital advisor for your project! You will select a digital advisor on CDAP’s Digital Advisor Marketplace that you would like to partner with to develop your digital adoption plan. 

Once you and your advisor agree on terms of work and cost of the plan, the digital advisor will complete the plan and submit it to process the grant payment. 

As a digital advisor through the CDAP, AI Guides can’t wait to work with innovative SMEs that have ideas on how to improve their business, but need help implementing them. That’s where we step in, by designing a plan on how artificial intelligence can help you reach your business goals. 

4. Get your plan approved by ISED

Digital adoption plans must meet the minimum viable elements identified in the CDAP digital adoption plan guide. Once ISED validates your plan, you can submit your plan and invoices to cover the advisory fees for up to $15,000.

5. Implement your digital adoption plan with the support of a digital advisor 

Once you have your plan and grant, it’s time for implementation. With the support of your digital advisor, you’ll be able better take advantage of new technologies that can grow your business, your team, and your revenue. 

We’ll go into more details on how you can find and choose your digital advisor below. 

Additional Stream 2 Steps 

There are a few other steps for the Boost Your Technology Stream you can take advantage of: 

  • Apply for 0% interest loan with BDC: Once your digital adoption plan has been approved by ISED, you can apply for a loan of up to $100,000*. Use the personalized link ISED will send you by email. Each SME can apply only once for the duration of the program.
  • Funded work placement: Businesses will receive a wage subsidy up to $7,300 to hire  post-secondary students and recent graduates through the funded work placement.
  • Fast track: Have you already participated in a digital adoption program? If so, you could use the fast-track option to become eligible to apply for up to $100K zero interest loan from BDC for the work you’ve already started. 

 

What is a Digital Advisor in the CDAP? 

All those steps are pretty straightforward, but when you’re choosing your digital advisor you need to make sure that their services and company are a good fit for both your project and your team. 

When you’re approved for the Boost Your Business Technology grant, you can receive up to $15,000 for the services of a digital advisor. But what is a digital advisor in the Canadian Digital Adoption Program and what do they do? 

Designated digital advisors will work with companies to recommend digital pathways and strategies that will help them achieve business goals, increase their competitiveness, and encourage growth–all in the digital economy.

Digital advisors registered with the Digital Adoption Program must: 

  • Provide vendor neutral advice in the provision of advisory services to SMEs and will be subject to CDAP’s Code of Conduct. 
  • Work with eligible SMEs to develop digital adoption plans tailored to the needs of the client. 
  • Understand that registration on the marketplace does not guarantee funding for digital advisors–that will only occur if an SME decides to retain their services.
  • Assessing their SME’s current digital maturity and recommending tailored digital solutions to support their business strategy

Note that technology vendors (organizations that sell technology products) are ineligible for registration on the marketplace at this time.

How to choose a Digital Advisor

You can find your digital advisor options on the CDAP’s marketplace once you’re deemed eligible. Then you should look for digital advisors that: 

  • Understand advanced, sophisticated digital technologies 
  • Have experience creating roadmaps and plans for technology usage and adoption by teams of all sizes with all goals   
  • Can create digital adoption plans to support your SME’s goals, and lead you to success 
  • Are unbiased in the resources and tools they suggest. At AI Guides, we believe you deserve vendor-agnostic guidance that makes sure you’re matched to the right solutions for your environment, and that’s how we always run our business–whether through the CDAP or not. 

 

What companies qualify as a Digital Advisor in Canada?

In order to be listed on the CDAP advisor marketplace as a digital advisor, companies must: 

  • Have a minimum of five years of experience providing digital advisory services
  • Have experience in developing digital business strategies, models, products or services
  • Have expertise in digital technology solutions for SMEs
  • Have experience in executing digital technology selection processes and structural analytical techniques
  • Hold a relevant post-secondary degree or diploma or certification in a relevant field (e.g., computer science, engineering, business or commerce, digital or information technology or systems; an MBA, CPA or related professional designation is preferred)
  • And of course, be able to provide all elements of a CDAP digital adoption plan 

Digital advisors must provide vendor neutral advice to clients–which means advisors that also serve as vendors will not be permitted to register at this time. At AI Guides, we’ve learned everything we need to know to support the SMEs looking for digital technology guidance and support from an unbiased source. 

Some digital advisors might have expertise in: 

  • Manufacturing technology 
  • CRM platforms 
  • Digitizing construction processes 
  • E-commerce
  • Artificial intelligence (such as through AI consultants like us) 

 

What are AI consultants? 

AI consulting is the business of helping companies use AI technologies to improve their businesses. AI consultants support artificial intelligence endeavors to help companies scale and grow at rates they just couldn’t without this technology. 

They allow you to approach your business problems in a strategic fashion. Instead of trying to fit an AI solution to your problem–and then have it not work–you’ll be able to determine what AI program is best for the problem, and whether or not AI is a good fit at all. 

At AI Guides, we use our experience and vast network of AI technologies and professionals to translate artificial intelligence services into usable, actionable information for you and your team. Whether you’re looking to engage customers, better manage your supply chain, or advance your business strategy

How AI Guides Can Help with Digital Adoption 

After going through the checklist of requirements, AI Guides knew we were not only eligible, but we’re proud to have built our business to already provide vendor-diagnostic support to companies looking to learn and grow in the digital space. 

From our initial assessment to our detailed roadmap covering the objectives that AI can help you reach, we protect your interests as your independent guide through this new frontier. 

We make sure you know what needs to happen and who’s qualified to help you so your journey begins with a clear path to success. As a digital advisor for the Digital Adoption Program, AI Guides is here to ensure the successful use of artificial intelligence in your business through unbiased, technical expertise that mitigates risk and sees ROI. 

 

Conclusion: Get support for your Digital Adoption Plan from AI Guides

At AI Guides, we know your business needs to be an innovative leader in your industry. In order to do that, you have to ensure the successful use of artificial intelligence in your business. 

Here’s how it works. 

1.     Vision: First, we help you imagine where you want to go, and how AI can help

2.     Digital Maturity: We check your data and IT infrastructure to understand what will work in your environment.

3.     Solution: Finally, you get a detailed roadmap for reaching those objectives, and we point you to the right vendors for your project. 

And you can get access to all of this today through Canada’s Digital Adoption Program’s Boost Your Technology Stream. AI Guides is incredibly proud to be a CDAP advisor that can help the Canadian economy go beyond recovery by using advanced digital technologies. With this grant opportunity, we can work together to solve your most pressing business questions and exceed your revenue goals. 

We bring both business leadership experience and technical expertise in AI to the table, serving as translators between your business goals and the technical requirements needed to fulfill them. 

Contact us if you have any more questions about Canada’s Digital Adoption Program or how we can support your digital adoption needs, or get started on your CDAP Boost Your Technology Stream application right now.

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John Stroud

John Stroud

John is a certified OpenExO consultant in exponential technologies. Prior to launching AI Guides, John served as Vice President, Strategy at a federal crown corporation ($600M budget and 8000+ workforce) with responsibilities for Governance, Human Resources, Communications, Legal, Performance Measurement and Risk.

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