Canada sets post-Government On-Line priorities

TORONTO — When the federal government‘s plan to move citizen-facing services online reaches its completion date a year from now, the next step will to cut some of the complexity out of internal government processes.

The federal

budget, released Tuesday afternoon, addresses issues like IT heterogeneity, business process re-engineering and improved inter-department cooperation through a series of expenditure management reviews.

According to Simon Gauthier, the government of Canada’s deputy CIO, there are significant cost savings to be realized by getting different levels of government on the same page in terms of the technology they use. For example, there are 24 versions of SAP software currently in use across government and 17 versions of PeopleSoft. Last year there were 1,753 contracts in place to manage software licences for Microsoft products alone.

The standard RFP process will have to be observed, said Simon Gauthier, who spoke Tuesday at the Information Highways Conference in Toronto, but there may be a way of consolidating contracts to better manage software licensing.

The government has set a goal of three years to meet a series of “”common service targets”” — i.e., have government enjoy economies of scale by having departments standardize on common IT resources and business processes. For example, corporate administrative services within government currently share 24 per cent of resources. The three-year goal is to boost that to 75 per cent.

To help with this endeavour, the federal government is looking to Ontario as a model. The provincial government has undergone its own rationalization project since the late 1990s in order to achieve economies of scale and has been quite successful, according to one consultant.

“”I think they’ve done an excellent job of moving the agenda forward,”” said Ron Edgar, with Partnering and Procurement Inc., a firm that has helped broker client/supplier relationships for all levels of Canadian government.

“”When you’re trying to turn a ship the size of Ontario, it’s not an easy thing to do,”” he said, adding that the degree of difficulty could increase for the federal government.

But these are problems that are facing not only governments but the vendors that supply their technology. For example, said Edgar, Microsoft would enjoy its own economies of scale if it could simplify the way it sells software licences to government.

The government’s plan to simplify technology and business processes will also extend to its citizens. When Government On-Line was first conceived, it was expected to eventually replace other media through which government and citizens communicate, said Gauthier. That has not been the case. Government call centres are receiving fewer inquiries, but along with regular mail and in-person interaction, they are still very much in use by citizens.

The government has made all of these avenues available to citizens, said Gauthier, but hasn’t removed the red tape that would make them easier to use. By way of example, he said that opening a restaurant requires 85 separate government permits.

“”We have to think of government as one enterprise,”” he said. “”We have to stop believing that citizens want government to be complex.””

To combat that line of thinking, the government aims to offer single-window service citizens (all government service available through one Internet portal) and integrated identity. That would reduce the number of times a citizen must provide basic information like date of birth and address to various government departments and levels of government.

Without going into specifics, Gauthier said a greater degree of cooperation between government jurisdictions — as well as municipal, provinicial and federal government — is required to achieve these goals. He estimated it could be five years before we see single-window service.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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