How the Canadian Digital Service started…
A Made-in-Canada Approach to Digital Government
The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) undertook a series of engagement sessions on digital government, soliciting ideas and perspectives on an emerging Government of Canada approach to improving digital service delivery. Between September 2016 and February 2017, TBS met with numerous stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds, in 20 cities and 10 provinces and territories across Canada. This included provincial and municipal governments, technology sector companies, start-ups and business incubators, civic tech organizations, and academic institutions.
This cross-country engagement process was part of the inspiration for the creation of the Canadian Digital Service, which follows up on the government’s Budget 2017 commitment to adopt new ways of serving Canadians. This report highlights the feedback received during these engagement sessions, as well as lessons learnt from other governments around the world that are pursuing innovative approaches to digital transformation. Many stakeholders spoke of the challenges they faced because of outdated or difficult-to-use online services. Partners in municipal and provincial governments spoke of the barriers they faced in hiring and retaining digital talent, or in adopting new approaches to user-centric design and technology implementation into traditional government structures and processes. These conversations focused on four major themes:
In engagement sessions held with stakeholders across Canada, a wide range of ideas and perspectives were put forward, helping inform a way forward on a made-in-Canada approach to digital government. This feedback included:
- Putting user needs first, ahead of government processes
- The need for strong, horizontal leadership to drive digital transformation
- “Working in the open” to accelerate change across departments and jurisdictions
- The critical role that data and digital identity plays in improving service delivery, and the complex policy and public perception issues surrounding privacy and data use across organizations and jurisdictions
- The need to find better ways to connect external talent with opportunities within government and to engage with the next generation of digital talent
- Harnessing the IT workforce already in government by enabling innovation from within and addressing skills gaps in the areas of user-centric design and agile development
- Re-thinking procurement to identify ways to enable start-up organizations and non-traditional players to work with government and co-create solutions
- The importance of cloud computing and open source technologies as foundational elements for innovation in digital service delivery
- The need for broader digital literacy across government at all levels, to support informed decision-making as increasingly all policy issues, programs and services have digital components
This engagement report represents only the beginning of a conversation on what the future of digital government looks like in Canada – the opportunities are great and there remains much work to be done. The stakeholder engagement undertaken here was intended, in part, to build a network of digital government practitioners across Canada to enable the sharing of experiences on an ongoing basis. In that spirit, your ideas, feedback, and comments are welcome – please stay in touch by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @CDS_GC or using the #GCdigital hashtag.