Yukon government investing in technology & telecom to meet Yukon’s needs

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthStacey Hassard, MLA for Pelly-NisutlinAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, November 6, 2015
by Stacey Hassard, Minister of Economic Development
and Scott Kent, Minister of Highways & Public Works

For the past four plus years, our government has been focused on making investments to create an environment that allows Yukoners to succeed in their business ventures and make life better in the territory.

Last week, we continued to build on that record with the announcement of two more major investments in Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and services. These most recent investments help diversify the Yukon economy and create new opportunities.

While investments in traditional infrastructure – like roads, bridges and buildings – remain a cornerstone of our economic strategy, IT investments will help the territory grow beyond the traditional sectors of government, tourism and mining.

In our next budget, we will increase the amount of capital spending on IT initiatives. Our annual investment will go up by $2 million, bringing the total yearly investment to $8.5 million, a 30 percent increase.

This means that people and businesses working in Yukon’s IT sector will have more opportunities for contracts and jobs. Examples of what Yukon IT firms have delivered on in the past include expansions to fibre optic networks and mobile radio systems, as well as development and maintenance of government IT systems.

What many people might not realize is that our IT sector is a significant contributor to our economy. We are proud of what our IT sector has already accomplished and we believe this new investment will support even more growth and exciting new opportunities.

By spending more on IT infrastructure projects, we accomplish two goals: 1) to provide better connectivity, mobility and overall improvements to government programs and services, and 2) to enhance opportunities for local IT businesses to bid on projects, help businesses grow and create jobs in the IT sector.

We also recently announced the route for a new fibre optic project to provide backup (or redundancy) to our critical telecommunications services. Everyone remembers the disruptions that occur during significant Internet outages, such as the one last September 23, and no one wants to see that repeated.

The recently-announced project will see the connection of Yukon’s existing fibre optic system to the NWT government’s Mackenzie Valley fibre optic line to Inuvik. This will create a fibre loop which will protect Internet, telephone, cellular and credit card services as well as government and emergency 911 services where available. It will mean data can flow in another direction, if the line is damaged at any point by fire, road equipment, or other causes.

Every Yukon community will benefit from this increased redundancy, with 10 Yukon communities along the fibre line gaining full redundancy.

Northwestel, as our partner in the project, will contribute funds to strengthen fibre infrastructure in Yukon, including extending the existing fibre line from Stewart Crossing to Dawson City. This means that in addition to redundancy, there will be an increase in the number of communities with reliable fibre service.

This enhanced reliability will provide the confidence for businesses to invest and expand, which opens up some very exciting opportunities.

By choosing this route, our government is also demonstrating that we believe the ownership and operation of internet fibre within Yukon is best left to the private sector, which has both the capacity and innovative spirit to make it happen. In the future, if there is a business case to be made, the private sector is able to bring yet another fibre route to Yukon.

This fully redundant fibre loop, along with our substantial investment in IT procurement, will set the stage for even more growth and opportunities for Yukon. It will continue to strengthen our territory as the best place in Canada to live, to work, to play and raise a family.