It is clear that mobile, digital media is transforming the way in which organizations, families and governments interact and communicate in an information rich, technology enabled society. In this environment, the challenges are global.
Each year since 2009, more than 2000 key leaders from governments, the private sector and academe have met in Stratford to discuss Canada’s future as a digital nation. The Stratford Declaration expressed the profound commitment of the participants to help Canada succeed in the rapidly changing, highly competitive global economic environment.
Knowledge workers, industries and innovation can thrive anywhere. Canada 3.0 emphasized and has reiterated that success will depend on an unprecedented level of collaboration across government, education and the private sector. All agree but implementation remains fraught and elusive.
To help track Canada’s evolution toward an inclusive digital society, the Stratford Institute for digital media has compiled the Stratford Index of key indicators and measures in ICT. These are taken from various national and international studies. Individually they suggest trends. Cumulatively and wherever possible year-over-year, they present a striking portrait of Canada’s standing in the digital world.
In a review of 138 countries, the World Economic Forum documents Canada’s gradual decline: in global competitiveness, from 9th in 2009 to 12th in 2011, and in capacity for innovation – 24th. Echoing the WEF, the Conference Board of Canada rated Canada’s innovation 14th out of 17 peer countries. We are increasingly connected by broadband and Canadians spend more time online than any others (almost twice the worldwide average) but the tangible results are lacking.
Over the years, various governments, federal and provincial, have announced their intentions to be “model users” of the rapidly evolving technology. Indeed, one would expect our governments to be leaders, supporting our world-leading technology industries and, by modeling the effective use of new solutions, helping market these to the world.
The trends, though, are stark. The World Economic Forum is blunt: in terms of the importance of ICT to government vision of the future, Canada ranks 28th out of 138 countries and in government prioritization of ICT, we rank 31st. In terms of government procurement of advanced technology products, Canada now ranks 35th, down from 26th in 2010.
Tom Jenkins and his colleagues in their influential report, Innovation Canada: A Call to Action, issued a challenge, calling for a “whole of government approach” to place business innovation at the centre of the government’s strategy for improving Canada’s economic performance. Canada 3.0 has recognized this and would take the argument the next step: innovation is no longer simply an economic issue nor just for one level of government: it is an issue for all of a competitive modern society, governance included.
To explore innovation in the provision of government services, the Stratford Institute commissioned Brainmaven Research to undertake a thorough and rigorous evaluation of the websites of the provincial and territorial governments. The results showed some promising developments as these governments explore the potential of the technologies to offer citizen-centric services.
Top performers in each of the three major categories are: Québec for its provision of citizen-centric online services; Ontario for its provision of integrated online information; and Alberta for its effective use of social media to engage with citizens. Considering overall performance, British Columbia rises to the top as the province with the most consistently citizen-centric and integrated e-government initiatives.
The purpose of this study is to serve as an impartial, data-driven analysis to facilitate discussion of and inspiration for the ongoing efforts of provincial and territorial CIOs as they continuously work to provide the best possible online offerings for Canada’s citizens.
In terms of online access to government services, much remains to be done. The Jenkins Report noted that businesses have great difficulty in identifying government programs of benefit to them. The report recommends an online concierge service. In the online world and as a few pilot projects suggest, all governments should be collaborating to offer one window into related services.
The collaborative spirit of Canada 3.0 needs to prevail. Canada has studied the issues thoroughly and now is the time for action. Ours is a pioneering generation, privileged to venture into this new territory. On the frontier we are permitted to question old habits and traditions while remaining true to underlying principles and truths. It is a time to create new structures, business models, partnerships and even professions.
Ian E. Wilson is founding executive director of the Stratford Institute and a former Librarian and Archivist of Canada. For the Stratford Report 2012 and the Stratford Index (pages 6 to 9) please see: www.stratfordinstitute.ca