Currency of collaboration

Rising loonie drives push for government innovation

As the Canadian dollar hits record-highs and governments find themselves in a strong fiscal position, many public sector leaders are asking how Canada can take advantage of this opportunity.

Often, the hardest time to lead a government is when things are going well, as it is a challenge to make tough, future-oriented decisions. However, this is precisely the time when governments should not only be taking advantage of prosperity within the country, but also helping to spur future growth.

To compete on a global scale, governments need to create an open and collaborative environment to foster innovation in a booming economy.

Open culture

Canadians pride themselves for having an open culture – one that embraces new ideas and new concepts for the improvement of all.

Creating an open and collaborative environment is hard, yet it is critical to fostering an environment of innovation to compete in a global economy.

One of the actions that the federal government took to help keep an open dialogue and ensure fair process was the Federal Accountability Act. Granted Royal Assent on December 12, 2006, the Act was designed to strengthen accountability and increase transparency and oversight in government operations.

There are those, however, who suggest this step has actually impeded open dialogue among government, its stakeholders and its supplier community, stifling creativity and innovation.

To create an environment of openness, government must be willing to invite a variety of people to the table – line agencies, central agencies, suppliers and other key stakeholders. This approach may not only solve current problems, but prevent future issues from coming up, as well. It may even prompt a whole new option that hadn’t been thought of before.

The Province of British Columbia has already been doing this through its Joint Solution Procurement (JSP), allowing both the government and its suppliers to work together to define what the real challenge is and ensure that the right solution is developed.

The JSP is a time and resource intensive process for everyone and potentially a costly investment for suppliers. But it allows many options to be explored and creates a true partnership that lets everyone feel they have a vested stake in the project.

Creating an open and collaborative environment allows the government to ensure that it is putting in place the right steps for future innovation and growth.

A recent survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the IBM Institute for Business Value found two things.

One is that Canada is expected to be one of the most attractive business locations in the world over the next five years, due to political stability, a positive foreign investment environment and strong support for private enterprise and competition.

The not-so-good news is that, for the first time, Canada has slipped out of the top ten rankings. The reason is a slightly reduced social and cultural environment score and a lower rating for government policy and vision compared to other developed markets.

This boils down to our ranking in the area of innovation. We are not investing in the new knowledge-based economy.

During boom times, the country should be investing.

Canada needs to identify areas of social and economic importance, and invest in the application of information technology to create new business models, establish new markets and drive productivity.

Investing together with industry, in an open and collaborative environment, can help drive innovation.

Perfect timing

Today’s economy puts our governments ahead of many others around the world. To continue to take advantage of the areas identified in the EIU study, we need to invest in areas where we fall behind.

To do this, governments – both federal and provincial – need to ensure that they create a policy and social environment that has the best conditions for citizens and business.

We need to invest in the right tax programs, continue with a sound fiscal policy and ensure that we are investing in the right social programs. Canadians need to understand that globalization and innovation are linked.

Globalization is the new playing field in which the competitive game will be played from now on – whether it’s economics, technology, politics or culture. And innovation is the only way we are going to win.

The good news is that there has never been a better time to become an innovator. Exceptional talent and technical capabilities are everywhere, and country, company, institution or individual can tap into them whenever they want.

By creating an open environment within organizations and investing in key areas, Canada is poised to maintain and grow its status on the world stage.

(Kim Devooght is the vice-president for public sector at IBM Canada. Connect with Kim

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