British Columbia’s Citizens@TheCentre service transformation strategy calls for a shift toward online and increased self-service. The strategy marked a significant milestone with the February 2013 launch of the BC Services Card, which transforms how the province delivers services by providing citizens a method to securely identify themselves both in person and online.
The strategy will permit the development of new online services, including licenses and permits, online voting, birth registrations, health information, student information, and more. The card, which contains contactless security chip technology, replaces and expands the usability of the BC Care Card, and, if a citizen wants, can be combined with their driver’s licence. It will be issued to 4.5 million citizens over the next five years.
Design and implementation were a leadership challenge. First, the solution had to be affordable. The province was looking to cut costs, not create more, by consolidating services onto one card. Second, enabling legislative amendments were needed to the Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Motor Vehicle Act and health legislation. Third, privacy protection was paramount – it would not do to compromise the personal information of British Columbians.
Dave Nikolejsin, the province’s chief information officer, was tasked as project champion. A quiet, thoughtful, resourceful leader, he described the management of the change. “The driver for online is better service and convenience at lower cost. But before we went at the business side and IT stuff, we did the heavy lifting first by updating the legislation to deal with all of the potential privacy concerns. There was extensive consultation with the Privacy Commissioner which was very useful and helped ensure all the necessary privacy safeguards are in place.”
Partnership among ministries
Nikolejsin stressed the importance of getting the attention and support from the highest levels to ensure resources were provided, and of resolving issues at the start so that the issues fell away and their potential to complicate matters later was reduced.
The next step, as with all major projects in B.C., was to get approval from the Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Transformation and Technology, chaired by the Secretary to Cabinet. Then came setting up the Project Board, chaired by the Deputy Minister of Health, with the Deputy Ministers of Citizen Service, Justice and Finance, the CIO, and various ADMs. Project managers using project management tools were assigned, and weekly project meetings were held.
“It’s an unnatural act for any particular ministry to look outside the boundaries of their ministry when they’re trying to solve their business problems,” Nikolejsin noted, “and this was a great example of how a central agency and the CIO were able to bring the interests of the entire community together and solve the problem once for everybody. The Ministry of Health deserves real kudos for working with the rest of the system to ensure that the investments they made also benefitted other areas of government.”
“It is difficult, in times of constrained dollars and overworked civil servants, to get them to want to do the extra work of transformation,” Nikolejsin pointed out. “But what we encountered was all sorts of people who were actually interested in the value that a new Services Card could bring. They actually wanted to work on this.”
There were four key outcomes of the initiative:
• Improved patient safety through greater accuracy of identification. The card ensures that patients will receive the treatments for which they are eligible and/or entitled.
• Convenient card issuance processes. New process will ensure that citizens need only apply for one card instead of attending multiple counters for health cards, driver’s licences, and other government services.
• Improved identity management and credentialing. This will reduce transaction costs while protecting privacy.
• Improved service delivery with greater online capabilities. This will allow patients to access services from home, decreasing the handling of personal information and reducing the risk of identity theft and fraud.
The groundwork has been laid for expanded future services. This project illustrates something we are seeing more of – the changing role of the CIO and the role of the CIO as a change leader.
The leadership of Dave Nikolejsin was recognized with the Leading Management Change Award presented at the Canadian Government Executive Magazine Leadership Summit in April, 2012. See www.canadiangovernmentexecutive.ca for more information. He also received a GTEC Distinction Award for excellence in collaboration in October. Dave has since been promoted to Deputy Minister, Energy and Mines for British Columbia.