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Microsoft to invest $500 million in Quebec’s AI infrastructure and workforce

Today, Microsoft announced it is investing US$500 million in expanding its hyperscale cloud computing and AI infrastructure in Quebec over the next two years.

The investment will include the construction of multiple datacentre locations, slated to start in the coming months, in L’Ancienne-Lorette, Donnacona, Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, and Lévis.

This, the company said, will expand Microsoft’s computing capacity by approximately 240 per cent over the next three years, and build on capacity already in place across the province, including an existing datacentre region, launched in 2016.

Chris Barry, president of Microsoft Canada said, “These investments will not only provide Quebec’s private and public sector organizations with more capacity and added resiliency to transform operations, but will also enable a trusted and secure foundation to scale solutions faster to market and compete globally, securing Quebec’s future in the digital economy.”

Today’s announcement comes as Ernst & Young released a report, commissioned by Microsoft, revealing that the company and its ecosystem in Quebec includes more than 3,200 partners and substantial cloud infrastructure accounts, supports over 57,000 jobs and contributes more than US$6.4 billion annually to Quebec’s GDP.

“Quebec is at the forefront of global innovation on artificial intelligence, with one of the highest concentrations of deep learning researchers in the world,” said Industry Minister,  François-Philippe Champagne. “Our government is committed to working with the partners, like Microsoft, to ensure that all actors in the Canadian AI ecosystem have access to the resources and computing infrastructure they need to advance the commercialization of AI systems here at home, and to advance AI that provides social and economic benefits to all Canadians.”

Microsoft said it’ll ensure that these future datacentre locations will help meet Microsoft’s sustainability goals to be carbon negative, water positive and zero waste by 2030. This includes using low-carbon materials during construction, and using renewable energy, advanced cooling features, and measures to decrease diesel fuel use during operation.

Quebec workforce skilling initiatives

Coupled with today’s announcement, Microsoft shed light on two key skilling initiatives it announced with NPower Canada and KPMG over the past two days.

On Monday, Toronto-based NPower, a charitable organization that provides technical training programs for underserved Canadians, announced the extension of its intermediate Junior Data Analyst program to French-speaking job seekers in Quebec. The program, co-sponsored and developed with Microsoft, equips participants with Microsoft’s Azure AI Fundamentals certifications.

Applications for the program start on Nov. 27 for the inaugural cohort in May 2024.

Further, yesterday, Microsoft and KPMG teamed up to invest US$1.7 million over three years in the new Quebec-based Operational Risk Skills Development Centre.

The Centre will be tasked to offer free hands-on training to help businesses and governments build cybersecurity protection, navigate the opportunities and challenges of generative AI, and implement it responsibly.

Training will be delivered in French, and reportedly has the potential to benefit more than 11,000 executives.

“Through this collaboration with Microsoft, we aim to strengthen cybersecurity and make generative AI a transformative opportunity, instead of a threat,’’ said Benoit Lacoste Bienvenue, regional managing partner Québec region, KPMG in Canada. “Through our innovation in these areas, we’re taking concrete actions to advance security and have a useful and positive impact for organizations in Quebec.”

KPMG in Canada’s Canadian Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity is also located in Quebec.

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