At this year’s GTEC Week, the award’s gala will celebrate the best of the best in Canadian public sector IT initiatives. TIG spoke to Mostafa Zommo, director general of e-Services with Canadian Heritage, who serves as the chairman of the judging selection committee for the GTEC Week Distinction Awards.

Judges are chosen based on their IM/IT experience in government and related sectors.

TIG: How does the judging process work?

MZ: The judges are grouped into threes and each judge reviews a nomination and passes it on to the other two judges to verify his or her assessment. If they reach a consensus, it becomes a finalist, and if the three reach a ‘no’ then it’s not a finalist. If there’s a disagreement, it comes to the chair. After that there is a challenge session where all the judges speak to the nomination they have received … and if people know more about it or request more information [they can] challenge that particular judgment. From there it goes to another committee, which I sit on, where these finalists are rated for medals.

TIG: Are there specific criteria the nominees have to meet?

MZ: This is a judging process, it’s not scientific, and there is such a thing we call the Wow Factor. It’s the judges’ total experience … at the end of the nomination you have this kind of sensation, you say, “”Wow, what an initiative.”” The Wow Factor plays a key role, and it’s very hard to judge that.

The whole question of excellence plays into it. Sometimes this term “”excellence”” is hard to define, it’s the kind of thing you recognize when you see. But there are more quantitative measures, such as return on investment, whether it is portable across government or outside government, and what the client says about it. Sometimes it’s the degree [to which] you take what exists and reshape it into something new. We look at partnerships and we look at collateral value. In one of the nominations, the City of Hanoi in Vietnam [along with] the City of Montreal, the University of Montreal, CIDA and the government of Vietnam collaborated on this one project. Just the sheer effort it takes to cross the cultural divide between Canada and a country such as Vietnam is a challenge to not only build the bridge culturally, but also to apply technology to a country that is not necessarily at the same stage of development as Canada — so the application of technology has to be appropriate and suited to the environment. To me it is an interesting initiative in the sense it provides a flag for Canada in that part of the world, so that also comes into play in the evaluation.

TIG: What are some projects that have stood out over the years?

MZ: I’m always impressed by the incredible innovation year after year. You would kind of expect that because technology is an enabler and it’s a service delivery support structure and the government is in the business of service. So it’s not a surprise that you see a high level of innovation and creativity in government in support of the service delivery agenda.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of initiatives take place, I’ve seen a lot of firsts — the Canada site that allowed each department to participate and be part of the whole but at the same time maintain their own identity. There are inter-jurisdictional [initiatives]. Older people get a pension but also get some local services from the city and support from the province, so there is an initiative around old age security to integrate all of the services under one umbrella. There are now infrastructure [initiatives] such as Secure Channel. The government has to be seen as a trusted environment — when you deal with government and you transact with government, the level of trust has to be very high. So over the years the government has been leading the whole secure channel initiative.

TIG: What changes have you seen over the years?

MZ: We are joining the movement to do a lot of our business online and that is desirable in many ways because it is cost-effective and it frees people in the government to do the more valuable thinking and policy and strategic work as opposed to the transactional work. But it’s interesting to see it over the years because you can see the dots are connecting.

The government vision is to have a client-focused, quality-service multi-channel and you can see that it’s really possible. Initiatives come and they come again; innovation doesn’t come all in one shot.

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