Canadian Government Failing Online Citizens, Failing Digital Economy #GC2020

** Update – There have been other media articles on this same story: IT World Canada, and Michael Geist.

The Canadian Government is promoting a future planning exercise called ‘Blueprint 2020‘, to envisage the modernization of the public sector, which is great, and they are also helping co-ordinate collective inputs through a Twitter hashtag: #GC2020

This is also great, an example of how to use social media to engage with citizens.

However what is not so great is just how far behind the rest of the government organization is. A few Twitter posts does not an e-government strategy make.

Canada’s Digital Economy – Stuck in the Netscape Era

Earlier this week the Auditor General released their latest report, and one section focused on the online service delivery of government departments.

The report wasn’t just bad, it’s terrible. The Toronto Metro newspaper yesterday ran a headline describing it as “Feds stuck in Netscape era”, highlighting how they are still trapped in the era of floppy discs, there has been no major initiative in this area since 2005 (!), there is no government-wide strategy for doing anything about it. While they have a new plan in the pipe, it’s at least 16 months away…

Wow. Good to know the taxpayers dollars are hard at work, eh!

This might seem like it:’s only a function of convenience, that while it is handy to do stuff online, it’s no big deal to go down and sort it out face to face if needs be – We all spend too much time on Facebook anyway, right..

However consider four very big impacts for all Canadians:

  • The financial cost – The Auditor General highlights how the average cost of a digital transaction for government departments was almost 20 times lower than the cost of a telephone transaction, about 30 times lower than the cost of a mail transaction, and about 50 times lower than an in-person transaction. It’s costing taxpayers 50x more than it should to run the government.
  • More financial cost – The IT departments for the Canadian Government consumes over $4 billion a year, SSC alone almost $2 billion. Given this poor scorecard for IT-based services, what are they spending it on???
  • The downtime risk – This is not the first time the Auditor General has put this spotlight on IT. In their 2010 report they highlighted how all these old systems are on the edge of collapse. Imagine if a major function like Welfare claims went entirely offline! (Read more in our white paper on how to address the issue: Always On Digital Government).
  • The opportunity cost – It’s not surprising therefore that Canada has also not produced a Digital Economy report. This is the document that would direct Canada’s investment into these kinds of areas, for purposes of growing a world-class tech sector.

In short it can be seen that the Canadian Government is spending a fortune to keep in place dated systems which are far more expensive and far less capable of online systems than new Cloud services, and today this is already costing $billions more than it should. This is part of a larger apathy towards technology innovation in general, that will cost Canadians far more on a huge scale in terms of long-term prosperity.

If you want to know why there is this lack of focus on the tech sector, simply read this article and check out this chart. This is a reflection of where priorities and focus lies…. Technology, along with everything else, would be in the red line plunging downwards.

Yes the Feds are reporting a budget surplus, but at what price? Selling off the future of Canada tomorrow to make a buck today?

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