Digital Main Street Expands Partnership with Mastercard to Support Canadian Small Retailers and Businesses: Interview

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Digital Main Street, which assists businesses with their adoption of technology with easy-to-use tools and resources, and Mastercard are expanding their partnership to help Canadian small businesses navigate through the current economic storms and challenges.

Resources, tools and best practices are being added to provide small businesses with ways to safeguard their operations against the increasing threat of cyber attacks.

John Kiru

John Kiru, Executive Director of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas and Founder of Digital Main Street, said the partnership, since the inception of Digital Main Street in 2016, has been “critical in ensuring that we are bringing industry leading resources and opportunities to businesses across the country.”

“In a time where small businesses are being increasingly targeted with cyber attacks, phishing scams and more – this will provide invaluable resources and support to ensure they are protected,” he said.

He said the expanded partnership will help grow educational programs across the country, with a focus on increasing cyber security awareness among small businesses, youth and recent graduates. In addition to the programming, the partnership will also offer new tools and solutions that will help small businesses assess their level of cyber readiness and provide corresponding actionable recommendations to help mitigate existing risks.

“When we were building out the concept for Digital Main Street and the platform, (Mastercard) saw the wisdom of it and they are a founding partner of the program, providing resources, thought leadership, training and more” said Kiru.

Image: Fifi’s Handmade

“The latest of which is going to be the cyber security piece that we’re looking to layer on top of Digital Main Street. Now that we’ve helped small businesses move into that digital realm and helped educate them on how to move from bricks and mortar into bricks and clicks, we feel strongly that we need to support them by providing them the security they need not only for themselves but for their customers and Mastercard has once again stepped up and is offering, as a part of our partnership, their industry leading programming and resources, as well as their know-how in terms of the whole cyber security component for SMBs.” 

Sasha Krstic

Sasha Krstic, president of Mastercard in Canada, said small businesses can often be easier targets for cyber attacks because they have less security protection and fewer resources dedicated to cyber security compared to larger corporations.

“Despite their size, small businesses still have valuable data and it’s important that they have access to resources to shield themselves. Our expanded partnership with Digital Main Street will provide added tools and resources for small businesses so that they can focus on growing their operations knowing they are protected,” she said.

Small businesses in Canada can visit to learn more about how to gain access to these news tools and resources.

Kiru said the initial premise of Digital Main Street, which was launched through TABIA in collaboration with the city of Toronto and founding corporate partners like Mastercard, Google, Microsoft, Shopify and more, was to educate local small business people on the questions to ask and the directions they wanted to go in the digital world as the consumer habits started to shift.

“That was when Amazon was really starting to kick in and we saw the writing on the wall on how big an impact that was going to be. So this was a way of preparing local small businesses, educating them on how they too can play in that world . . . from bricks and mortar to bricks and clicks,” he said.

Image: Digital Main Street

“We never want to lose the bricks because that makes the environment, that makes the local economics, that makes the vitality of the community important but now in order to survive along main streets, etc., you need that supplemental side of things where you find now that the storefront is very much what we all remember, the shelves, the display areas, but once you walk into the back half of the store you’ll see people stuffing envelopes and boxes and at five o’clock that UPS truck shows up and picks up those online sales.

“That combination is what’s going to keep main street vibrant and active.”

With the additional educational resources and content, small business owners will be able to evaluate their level of cyber security protection, learn how to improve it, and most importantly equip themselves with the right tools to address any threats.

“As we move into the digital world and through Digital Main Street, which has become, thanks to the federal government, pan-Canadian, which we’re helping launch across the country, now people are on that digital highway if you will and we’ve all heard and seen cyber security issues where people are getting control of people’s websites or email inboxes, or any other scams that are going out there,” said Kiru.

“We need to make sure that our businesses are protected either with the right software, with the understanding of what to open, what not to open for example. So that whole cyber security becomes that much more critical in the evolution of helping to digitize main street, not only for the retailer but also for the consumer so they have confidence to go onto a small business website, make their transaction knowing that there is security in place and they’re not going to be compromised by shopping at the local small business. 

“That’s why it’s absolutely critical at this stage and very fortuitous for us who looks after the small business sector to have somebody like Mastercard step up and help us lead in delivering cyber security education and programming to local small businesses across the country.”

The enhanced partnership follows similar cybersecurity-related initiatives by Mastercard in Canada, which includes investments for the Toronto Metropolitan University and Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst, the University of New Brunswick’s Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, and a $510 million investment in its new Global Intelligence and Cyber Centre of Excellence in Vancouver. 

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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