Adapting the Government of Canada to a new digital and interconnected era


September 21, 2017

As Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Government of Canada in this new world dominated by platforms revolutionizing entire industries such as Uber, Airbnb or Alibaba, I frequently ask myself “How long will it be before governments worldwide are ‘platformed’?” This is a central question, not only to my work, but to the daily life of every Canadian citizen. A question I decided to address in the article The Government of Canada’s Information Technology Strategic Plan published in the August 2017 edition of the Public Sector Digest.

Rethinking the operating model

My key message is straightforward: in this new digital and interconnected era, we need to completely rethink the operating model of government. We must look at our government not in a linear way where public services are only provided by public servants but rather as an exponential platform where information is available and used by third parties to deliver services to citizens on behalf of the government.

Yet, to date, the Government of Canada has operated in an environment where information is not released by default, where partnerships are not easily cultivated and where linear approaches to engagement fundamentally hinder the ability of government to serve citizens.

This is why last year we released our Information Technology Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 as a first foundational change in our approach to digital. This plan is an attempt to harness the impacts of technology in the federal ecosystem by focusing on how the government manages its technological assets, how it grows its people and how it governs the enterprise. In other words, the Government of Canada, across all levels of its operations, needs to change and adjust more quickly to increasingly rapid developments in our society.

Government as a platform

There is no doubt that we will continue to invest federal funding over the long term in areas such as superclusters, artificial intelligence and other revolutionary technologies. However, we have to reap the benefits of these investments much sooner. We must also move towards a mindset where open government and service agendas are at the forefront of our thinking to create the conditions for government to operate as a platform.

I highlighted some paths forwards in the article, starting with directing our focus on tools that allow the Government of Canada to engage in a modern way. Proper technology architecture is essential to meet citizens’ expectations and the new business needs of the public service. We must also take innovative approaches to keep up with new procurement needs and enhance our collaboration with an increasing number of partners. All of this is an effort to have a more open government.

A public service for the future

Finally, and more importantly, we have to place the people at the centre of our efforts over the coming years. We must grow a public service for the future that is more inclusive of new approaches and ways of doing things. We must empower our people to engage and think digitally.

A fundamental change is required in our public service to keep pace with this new world. We must adjust to meet both traditional needs and new realities. This is a challenge I accepted when I became the Government of Canada’s CIO. And I am thrilled to work with the Chief Information Office staff to pave the way forward in modernizing the public service technology landscape for the benefit of all Canadian citizens.

Alex Benay
Chief Information Officer, Government of Canada

Alex Benay currently serves as the Chief Information Officer of the Government of Canada. Prior to this appointment, Alex was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation since July 2014.

From 2011 to 2014, he was Vice-President of Government Affairs and Business Development at OpenText. He has played a leadership role in Canada’s digital industry, as well as in promoting the global shift to digital in organizations such as the G20, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Olympics. Before joining OpenText, Alex managed various teams and programs at the Canadian International Development Agency, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and Library and Archives Canada.

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