Ontario boosts diversity with staff collaboration Web site

How do you communicate a complicated message like the importance of supporting a diverse workforce to more than 60,000 employees scattered across an area of 917,000 square kilometers?


The new internal Ontario Public Service Web site was demonstrated at Showcase Ontario.

That’s the question that the Ministry of Government Services had to ask about its new initiative to improve diversity in the workplace offered by the Ontario government. The answer was to tap an internal Web site already used daily by employees. The new Web site was ready for preview by Ontario Public Service (OPS) workers at the Showcase Ontario conference in Toronto this week.

“We like to think of diversity as being about inclusion, about a diverse work force,” explains Barry Koen-Butt, lead communications for the OPS diversity office. The Web site is for employees “to keep them abreat of diversity initiatives, success stories and all sorts of information and resources for people.”

The site doesn’t just funnel information to employees. It provides a place to ask questions, and a response is later e-mailed back to the inquiring mind.

Acting as an interactive forum for OPS employees around the diversity topic, the technology is typical of something you might expect to see on the show floor at this conference. Now a decade old, it has a history of connecting government workers with the technologies they use to do their jobs.

Doing that is more important now than ever, says Shelly Jamieson, the secretary of the cabinet for the Ministry. Kicking off Showcase Ontario with a keynote speech, she says that IT will increasingly be used to help deliver on the plans of the provincial government over the next several years. It will be about more than creating collaborative Web sites – some projects will involve mind-boggling amounts of users and data.

“The public expects something different,” she told the packed audience in Toronto. “They expect that we’ll be open 24/7 to meet their needs, and available everywhere.”

With a Liberal majority government at the helm for three more years, the focus will be on a few main issues, Jamieson says, including the economy, the environment, and healthcare.

A staggering 900,000 people suffer from diabetes in Ontario. To help that chunk of the population deal with their disease, the province will create an online registry that will host all their patient information. That information will be shared between doctors and patients, and have an alert system built into it if something is not going well.

“We don’t want someone with diabetes to end up in the emergency room because we haven’t managed the disease to the best of our ability,” Jamieson says. “This is also the springboard for us to provide Ontarians with an electronic health record by 2016.”

The province will also expand its plan to reduce wait time to more healthcare services, the secretary adds.

On the economic front, the province will focus on shifting away from the traditional industries and towards technology jobs.

“Some people, such as those in manufacturing base type sectors are facing hard times,” Jamieson says. “Other people, people like you in growth sectors like IT, are already part of the new economy.”

That will mean a focus on educating adults as they find themselves in a tough position – perhaps changing gears from an Oshawa car-manufacturing plant to a Waterloo ICT help desk. Part of the answer will come from conventions like Showcase Ontario, she adds, where 24,000 individual hours of education was doled out last year.

Green IT is also an important focus for the province, Jamieson says. It sees it as part and parcel of the new “green economy” that focuses on reducing carbon emissions. But not only will OPS datacenters be green, old IT equipment will be rescued from the trash dump and recycled instead.

Jamieson is focused on making sure these things are delivered, she tells the audience. Premier Dalton McGuinty made it clear what he expected from her when he came to her desk and slapped down a large, hardback book by Michael Barber, a former member of the British government under Tony Blair.

The title of the book? “Instruction to Deliver.”

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