Digital transformation isn’t achieved overnight, or without including every stakeholder along the way, a truism the City of Mississauga knows very well.

Since 2015 the city, located southwest of Toronto and currently home to more than 720,000 residents, has been pursuing an IT Master Plan which recently earned it a nomination in the Large Public Sector transformation category of ITWC’s Digital Transformation Awards.

Though nominations for this year are now closed, we’ll be covering every nominee that we’ve received in ahead of the big event.

“The IT Master Plan process was innovative and unique in how it engaged the tech sector and industry in the process,” City of Mississauga IT director and CIO Shawn Slack writes in his nomination form.

“Key leaders from within the city participated in thought leader sessions with technology firms such as Apple, SAP, Cisco, Microsoft, Bell, and LinkedIn, with the conversation focused on what the consumer expectations were, what plans each of these tech companies had to address those, and then any advice or best practices they had for public service.”

Eventually, Slack writes, the parties involved established four key goals for the city:

  • Open and transparent government;
  • Enabling decisions through research and analytics;
  • Creating a connected and engaged workplace; and
  • Improving services through innovation and partnerships.

Digital adoption and other growing pains

Though it’s presently the sixth largest city in Canada, Mississauga was only incorporated in 1968 and faces many growing pains in such key areas as transit, traffic management, social housing, and other key services that create a sense of community, Slack writes, and convincing its mayor and councillors – the c-suite, so to speak – that technology investment and innovation were equally important proved to be a challenge.

In his DTA application, City of Mississauga IT director and CIO Shawn Slack notes that it was important for his department to make sure everyone in the city supported its IT Master Plan.

“Aligning the [IT Master Plan] with the City Strategic Plan, a 40-year plan that guides growth and city building, and demonstrating value in how services are delivered, is a key challenge,” he writes.

“Terms such as ‘smart city’ and ‘Internet of Things [IoT]’ need to be part of a story that demonstrates value in how services are delivered,” he continues. “Digital inclusion, community engagement, innovation, efficiencies, and partnerships need to be priorities and clear in how they align and improve city services.”

Fortunately, Slack writes, the city was able to recognize that what they saw as adoption challenges exacerbated by a daunting rate of technological change also represented an opportunity to improve city service delivery – and to address the challenges that remained, began developing what became the IT Master Plan.

The city’s key innovation with the IT Master Plan was to recruit tech industry leaders and internal stakeholders to re-imaginine how services could be redesigned through the lens of innovation and technology.

For example, drawing on practices in the private sector, city services such as the Mississauga library, transit, recreation, and fire response systems were encouraged to develop “technology road maps,” a series of specific initiatives that would advance each service in an innovative way.

The impact was significant, Slack writes: between them, the divisions identified more than 75 potential technology-based initiatives across all of Mississauga’s civic services, some of which have already been submitted, including programs related to Canada 150 and public transportation infrastructure funding.

For example, the city has built a publicly owned fibre network that connects all of its facilities, many services, and even devices such as traffic intersections.

The ROI has been palpable, he writes: By investing in its in its online recreation system, for instance, the city was able to process over $1 million in payments in just 24 hours during peak registration.

Slack also notes that the city has also been a leader in providing free Wi-Fi to its residents, who can access the service from all city libraries, community centres, marinas, city hall, and a select list of public spaces that continues to grow that service. In 2016, he writes, residents and visitors consumed the equivalent of 407 years of Wi-Fi service.

The city even recently announced a partnership with international roaming access service Eduroam, allowing students from the latter organization’s postsecondary institution network access to Mississauga’s public Wi-Fi network.

“This is a huge shift in leadership and culture,” he writes. “In the 2017 business plan and budget technology was listed as one of four key influencers to the overall city budget.”

When a progress report on the IT Master Plan was presented to city council members at the beginning of this month, Slack writes, it was met with “very positive support” from the city’s mayor, councillors, and senior leadership team.

“Executive sponsorship and support is a key aspect of achieving digital transformation and that was achieved through the IT master planning process,” he writes. “It is clear that the IT Master Plan and initiatives implemented as a result are driving the digital transformation of the City of Mississauga.”

ITWC’s Digital Transformation Awards are being held on June 14 in Toronto.

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