Canada - Country Commercial Guide
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2020-08-03


Canada’s technology sector is a major economic driver and is outperforming much of the rest of the country’s economy. The sector has posted strong growth since 2012. In 2018, the sector grew by 3.7%, outpacing the Canada’s economic growth of 2.3%. All ICT sub-sectors experienced growth in 2018. The software and computer services and ICT wholesaling sub-sectors posted the strongest growth, up 7.7% and 11.4% respectively. Meanwhile, the ICT manufacturing industries expanded by 5.3% and the communications services sub-sector by 0.4%.

The Canadian ICT sector is highly trade dependent, importing US$41 billion in goods and exporting US$13.8 billion around the world in 2019. The United States is the second largest supplier of ICT goods to Canada; it is the top market for Canadian ICT exports with $9.3 billion in 2019. In 2019, total imports of ICT goods were led by the provinces of Ontario (US$28 billion), Quebec ($3.5 billion), British Columbia (US$3.3 billion), and Alberta (US$1.5 billion). The Canadian ICT market expects to continue growing through 2022.

There are over 41,500 companies in the Canadian Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector. The large majority (over 37,000) fall within the software and computer services industries. The sector consists mainly of small companies, with approximately 35,500 of them employing fewer than 10 people. The number of large companies employing over 500 individuals accounts for approximately 102 firms, including subsidiaries of foreign multinational corporations.

ICT industries are the largest performers of R&D in the Canadian private sector. In 2018, the sector held a 34.5% share of all private sector R&D expenditures in Canada. ICT R&D expenditures totaled $6.2 billion in 2018, up 2.2% from the previous year. The largest decline occurred in the ICT manufacturing sub-sector (-3.1%) while the largest increase was in software and computer services (+6.3%).

Canada has become a leader in AI with Montréal and Toronto taking the lead as exceptional hubs or research and startup activity. Canada is also emerging as a leading crypto nation, ranking third behind the United States and the United Kingdom when it comes to embracing blockchain technology.

Leading Sub-Sectors

In recent years, the strong economic performance of the Canadian ICT sector has been driven by:

Software and Computer Services: In 2018, this sub-sector posted strong growth in terms of GDP (+7.7%), revenues (+5.9%), and employment (+8.0%).

Cyber Security: The Canadian cyber security software and services market was estimated at almost $2.3 billion in 2018, up 9.2% from 2017.

Data Analytics: Big data and the analytics market is also growing, up 6.9% year over year, reaching $1.9 billion in 2018.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): In recent years, many companies have announced the creation or expansion of AI research activities in Canada.

Cloud Computing: Many Canadian firms are shifting to cloud services, which means that their internal IT functions are transferred to third-party IT services companies. According to IDC Canada, the public cloud application software market is growing at an annual rate of 14.4%, while the hosting infrastructure services market is growing at an annual rate of 16%, reaching more than $2 billion in value.


IDC Canada is predicting that ICT trends in Canada for 2020 will focus on an accelerated infrastructure scale out, through mega clouds, extending computing to the edge, 5G, IoT and security.

5G auctions and 5G advancements: Canada plans to hold spectrum auctions for 5G for the 3,500 MHz bands in late 2020, to be concluded in 2021. As the spectrum is distributed, infrastructure investment will also ramp up. Experts predicts that 5G infrastructure revenue will reach $4.2 billion in 2020, an 89% increase from 2019. In addition, the 70GHz and 80GHz spectrum will be also up for auction in the middle parts of 2020. 5G also encompasses business use cases.

Cloud and Data Analytics: Hybrid cloud architectures/technologies including Big Data and Analytics are also reshaping the digital economy in Canada. When organizations use these technologies to modernize core systems and the technology stack, traditional business products become reimagined as services. Thus, the application of these technologies are rapidly changing business models and technologies.

Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR): AR/VR is in the early stages of adoption in Canada. IDC Canada estimates that although VR adoption will see initial uptake in the Canadian market in the short term, the combination of AR and VR hardware in both consumer and commercial will drive the overall market by 2020. Moreover, ICTC Canada has predicted that VR and AR are to become a $150 billion global market by 2020, roughly double the size of the desktop PC market today.

Edge computing (and IoT devices): Investment in centralized processing power will continue to grow in the foreseeable future, but to improve network performance and resource availability, edge computing and IoT may skyrocket in 2020. IoT has more than 200 applications in the enterprise space and is continuing to grow. An IDC report expects ubiquitous IoT to be the new normal for 2020 with enhanced node and privacy benefits. From sensors to smart homes, IoT devices are expected to grow alongside edge computing. As per a McKinsey report, investments in IoT technology are projected to grow at 13.6% per year through 2022. Security will be a key part of IoT growth.

Cyber Security: According to a global threat research project by Carbon Black, cyber security threats are intensifying in Canada, with a large majority of organizations saying they have been the victim of cyber-attacks in the past 12 months. Thus, cyber security is one of the top concerns in government and enterprise organizations in Canada. Canada is now operating under the National Cyber Security Strategy. Released in 2018, National Cyber Security Action Plan (2019-2024) (NCSAP) provides funding for cyber security and outlines its implementation. Funding commenced in 2018 with US$382.6M over 5 years, and US$82M ongoing. This strategy comes as a response to the increase of cyber-attacks on government agencies and private corporations in Canada. New investments will allow Canadians to benefit from digital connections in a way that protects them and Canada’s digital infrastructure from cybercrime. These investments could also lead to significant purchases by the government.


Major Events and Trade Shows in Canada

Canadian Government

Industry Associations

Additional Information

Commercial Service

For additional information on this sector, please contact Commercial Specialist Tracey Ford at or by phone at (613) 688-5406.