Government struggles to rally info management support

OTTAWA — Getting senior management support for investing in information management is the largest obstacle faced by IT managers, says Justice Canada’s chief information officer.

At the Information Management for the Public Sector Tuesday, information management (IM) directors from

various federal and provincial government departments have come together to share ideas about what their organizations are doing to get services online for citizens.

Simon Labrie, the Department of Justice’s CIO, said that in general, information officers have not done a good enough job convincing executives of the benefits of information management. “There’s the idea from senior management that, ‘Well, we’ve gone this far without it. Why now?’”

To challenge this, Labrie said that IM must be presented as a prerequisite for effective knowledge management. Senior managers want to cultivate the creative and innovative capacities of their employees. An effective IM model can accomplish this by allowing employees to share their ideas and creativity across the organization, he said.

Also, initially securing the support of one senior manager – what Labrie called an “executive champion” – will go a long way towards getting support for an IM model from other senior managers.

”If you create an environment to showcase IM’s potential, demand will come,” he said.

Labrie also said that for IM to live up to its potential, every employee must be sold on it. It won’t matter how great the technology behind the system is if the employees don’t understand how and why they should be using it, he said.

Rita Moritz, Natural Resources Canada’s information management director, had similar advice for conference delegates. She said that employees aren’t being effectively trained on the importance of managing information.

”If people don’t have the discipline today to manage their e-mail, they’re not going to have the discipline for new tools and new IM,” Moritz said.

In an interview after her presentation, she said it is up to the IT managers to educate employees about why they want to use IM.

“When it’s properly explained, employees get it and it’s something they want to be a part of.”

Paul Hession, CIO of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said it’s also important that public awareness of IM be increased. Citing Ekos’ ongoing “Rethinking the Information Highway” study, Hession said that while citizens are increasingly using the Internet to contact the federal government, they are still very uncomfortable with providing personal and financial information online.

“We have a big job to do in terms of raising public awareness, and teaching people about online privacy and security,” he said.

For example, Hession said that a November 2000 Ekos study found that 80 per cent of people polled were unaware of public key infrastructure (PKI) and other security related technology. Teaching citizens about these kinds of technology will help ease online security concerns, and ultimately help the development of IM , he said.

The public sector IM conference, organized by International Quality and Productivity Centre (IQPC) Canada, ends Wednesday.

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