GTEC’s theme this year is Agile Government: Open, Collaborative, Mobile. The organizers couldn’t have picked a more appropriate topic.
If one is thinking about technology, government and the future, the questions are clear: how does government need to change, and how can technology help it do so?
Government’s challenge in the 21st century is to remain relevant to its political masters and the citizens it serves. To remain relevant, it has to be able to respond to the pressures that are demanding new ways of doing business efficiently and more cheaply. These forces include globalization, fiscal restraint, citizen expectations and, of course, technology.
Technology is both a driver and an enabler of the change that must occur. As a driver, for example, it gives citizens the information and the communication tools they need to get involved in the decision-making process as never before.
As an enabler, it offers tools that include social media that make it easier for government to reach out to more Canadians more effectively. It also offers enterprise-wide systems and processes that allow it to manage itself better.
The problem for government is that its Weberian hierarchical institutions are not easily able to reform themselves in order to respond to the drivers or, conversely, take advantage of the enabling tools. In short, they are not agile.
Case in point: technology drivers and enablers offer speed; government bureaucracies are slow. They require some risk; government bureaucracies are risk averse. They can force decision-making down into the organization, such as with social media tools; government organizations prefer cumbersome approval processes.
Government bureaucracies are not open by nature, and so don’t typically share information internally or externally. In a world where files are horizontal, information drives decision-making and data leads to innovation and prosperity, government risks being left behind, losing relevance.
Government is not intuitively collaborative. Again, its structures and culture must carry significant blame: departmental structures and mandates are siloed, and bureaucratic accountabilities make real collaboration difficult.
Finally, it should be noted that government organizations often resist change simply because, well, they don’t like it. We’ve always done it this way, and it’s always worked before, is the response.
Well, change is in the air. Not just for government as a whole, but for IT shops specifically. Where the emphasis has been on internal, secure and homogeneous systems, the focus will be on working with others for speedy, cost-saving innovation. BYOD is coming if it’s not already here.
Two key presenters at GTEC share their thoughts in our special report on the link between technology and change.
Liseanne Forand, as deputy minister of Shared Services Canada, has just begun her third year of the ground-breaking, horizontal initiative aimed at improving how the government of Canada’s technology systems work. She shares with us her vision for the future.
Corinne Charette, CIO for the government of Canada, offers her take on how the competencies and roles of government CIOs will change in the future.
Both leaders are responding to the challenge of using technology to improve how government works. GTEC has it right: the future is in agile government that’s open, collaborative and mobile.