How digital infrastructure empowers Ontario’s research, education and innovation

public health scientist, holding up a glass slide used for a run on a sequencing machine
Photo credit: James Gathany, CDC

Just over a year ago, when we all were driven to our homes so suddenly, I became even more certain about the critical nature of keeping science, education and innovation going. And how essential technology is to that.

In times of difficulty, it can be hard to remember that life is better now than it ever has been, by almost every measure of quality. It is in fact those difficulties that drive us to improve. Our ingenuity, supported by science, education and innovation, is what I believe will have us continue down that path. It’s a belief shared by Dr. Steven Pinker in his book, Enlightenment Now, and in a recent Hidden Brain podcast: we are constantly solving the problems of the human race. But it became a race against time when we were faced with the COVID-19 virus.

What was needed in this race? Collaboration. None of us could do it alone. It required the work of generations of scientists to decode a virus’ genome. Scientists across the province, connected to scientists across the country, connected to those across the globe. Sharing data, ideas, tools. And 20 years of Ontario’s research and education infrastructure being used to support it.

This past year, through the pandemic, ORION’s network and the community we support with it have grown stronger. Reliable online access is indispensable in this new normal and we’re connecting the students, educators, researchers and innovators across Ontario that need that infrastructure to bring forth a brighter future.

For example, Ontario’s COVID-19 Genomics Rapid Response Coalition brought together Ontario’s research community on our network to help decode the COVID-19 genome sequence using Ontario’s advanced research computing. ORION has always sustained and advanced the province’s shared essential research, education and innovation platform. But now, more than ever, we recognize that our strength is in the community we serve.

For our 20-year anniversary, ORION worked with the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis to develop a 2020-21 Social and Economic Impact Report, so we could see in concrete numbers how we enable this community. What we learned was astounding. Since our last impact report in 2015 , we contribute more to the economy, we support more jobs, and more Ontarians than ever rely on our network.

Through our network and the people we connect, ORION:

  • Contributes $10.1 billion to Canada’s economy, with 94% of it remaining in Ontario
  • Supports 102,000 jobs (FTEs) across all industry sectors
  • Enables the 1 in 9 people in the province who rely on us to do their work, which is nearly 1.7 million people

ORION socioeconomic impact 2020-21

Reliable and robust digital infrastructure is only becoming ever more critical to Ontario’s success. ORION’s role in Ontario has been growing, as total bandwidth utilization trended upward over the past decade faster than the increasing number of connections. It’s a responsibility we take seriously. We’ve been strengthening the cybersecurity of our network, and helping the sector enhance their own defenses against threats. Because we know we’re stronger together.

The pandemic has demonstrated that people are at the heart of ORION’s work. And we’re committed to continuing to provide Ontario’s community of students, educators, researchers, and innovators with the digital platforms they need. So we can keep solving the world’s biggest problems, whatever they may be.

 

Report cover for ORION socioeconomic impact 2020-21 by CANCEA

Download ORION’s 2020-21 socioeconomic impact report