Lessons on delivering the goods, on-line
Public servants agree to new action plan, kick-starting clientcentric governance
You guys don’t know how good you are and how important this is.” This was the inspiring message driven home by John Davis, facilitator of the second annual Government Electronic Infrastructure Congress held recently in Lac Carling, PQ. Davis urged more than 100 public servants from all levels of government to recognize their contribution, but the audience maintained a courteous silence. No rah-rah cheering from this crowd.
After two days of intense working sessions, staff from municipal, provincial and federal governments agreed on an action plan designed to move the vision of clientcentric government forward. Scott Campbell, chair of the congress and CIO for Ontario, described a four-point action plan based on collaborative partnerships among levels of government.
The first key initiative is a pilot project to deliver electronic services to individuals. B.C. Online, Human Resources Development Canada and Industry Canada will demonstrate how governments can work together, so an individual can electronically contact one organization to access social programs and related services. The project will address issues concerning security, protection of privacy, authentication, identification, communication and service.
The second initiative addresses services to business. Industry Canada, Ontario Business Connects and the City of Mississauga will develop a pilot project to provide one-stop service to new small businesses.
Meanwhile, Industry Canada’s Ed Therriault presented a dynamic, Java prototype which would allow an entrepreneur to answer a series of questions and complete all federal, provincial, and municipal requirements in a user-friendly, secure process. Ontario Business Connects agreed to conduct a series of consultative workshops to develop electronic service delivery models for business. New Brunswick offered to conduct a complementary series of workshops to seek client input and the views of organizations representing business. The pilot Web site and the information from the workshops will be used to develop an implementation model including electronic commerce.
The third initiative is focused on communication. Laurentian Technomedia Inc., offered to host a Web site that would be used as a clearing house for information about collaborative partnerships in general and specific updates on the pilot projects.
The fourth initiative focused on continued dialogue. Campbell advised that the chief information officers for Canada, the provinces and the territories had agreed to meet periodically in a CIO Forum to discuss collaborative matters and to share information and experiences. Given the challenges of distance and the cost of travel, municipal involvement may be best achieved by creating provincial/municipal forums within each province or by appointing municipal representatives to the CIO Forum. Campbell agreed to discuss this further at the CIO Forum and with municipal delegates.
In his opening remarks, Campbell reflected on the significant progress made in the last year since the first Lac Carling Congress, noting that now no one is questioning whether or not governments should work together on electronic service delivery. The challenge is to develop and implement successful models and to move forward.
He described the four imperatives for moving forward: customer service, economic development and competitiveness, and accountability for, and democratization of, information.
At the same time, he stressed that all three levels of government must seek creative approaches to address the visibility and branding issue so politicians can be assured they will be recognized for their initiatives. The need for accountability and governance to the client, to the legislature or council, to the citizenry and to the “greater good” presents an enormous challenge. It requires vertical accountability across governments with “no apologies” and horizontal technology integration across the country, while at the same time respecting local differences and needs. Acceptability, security and privacy issues top the list of practical challenges. Dwindling resources and the dominance of the Year 2000 issue detract from the attention paid to collaboration. No one individual or organization has overall responsibility for driving the collaborative agenda forward. Mistakes are not allowed. The human side of collaboration, education, marketing and decision-making requires significant change in the way we do business.
Notwithstanding these concerns, the opportunity to re-engineer business processes across governments, and to package similar services to the public is huge. The public expects to be able to achieve self-service and self-selection for government programs. Consolidating services from a client view enables reduced costs, improved service and enhanced program effectiveness. The answer to John Davis’ question of whether or not we know how good we are is a resounding yes. Public servants in Canada should be proud of their talent and take pride in this achievement.
Debbie Barrett is president of MISA, Co-chair of the STA Network and director of information technology r the City of Mississauga. She can be reached at debbie.barrett@city mississauga.on.ca or (905) 896-5190.
Copyright Plesman Publications Ltd. Jul 1998
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