Feds establish Web-based library

OTTAWA – The federal government is building a library and there’s more than mere books in it.

Called the Architecture Library, it’s envisioned to be an online collaboration tool for government departments and agencies to share knowledge and learn from each other on anything from software tools and business process models to policies and standards, said Ken Cochrane, CIO of the Government of Canada.

Think of it as a super wiki, where government departments can publish not only text-based information, but a wide range of tools with the end view of providing knowledge and experiences among various government agencies in a collaborative manner.

“One of the things that we don’t take advantage of, which we’re trying to, is to learn from each other’s successes and failures,” Cochrane said in an interview with CIO Government Review magazine.

“The Architecture Library will provide our departments with the ability to look, across government, at various tools that people have put in place that (others) could take advantage of…rather than, having to go figure it out for myself, I could go to the library, see what’s there and take it and use it as a business model,” he said.

Cochrane said the Architecture Library is expected to launch before April 2008, after which departments would not only have the ability to search through the libraries service, but also to publish their own models and tools so that other departments may find use for them.

The federal executive kicked off this week’s GTEC 2007 conference in Ottawa with a keynote that discussed the government’s shift towards a Government 2.0-enabled workplace.

He said that Government 2.0, as in Web 2.0, is a fundamental shift towards the next generation, whether it’s in products, services or in organizations. The shift is so dramatic that it generally results in greater efficiency and convenience that lead to innovation, he added.

“Government 2.0 is not simply a vision, but it’s something we must do,” Cochrane said, adding that the workplace is key to attaining that paradigm shift.

In working towards that next generation of the government workplace, behavioural changes in terms of how people collaborate among each other would have to occur, the federal CIO said.

Government organizations must be able to deliver services, not just to the public, but to each other as well and social networking tools and Web 2.0 technologies are enabling this capability, he said.

“How we deliver services to each other inside government so workers feel engaged and empowered is key,” said Cochrane.

It is also important to provide government workers with the modern tools that will allow them to perform their roles more efficiently, and be managed in a manner that recognizes their abilities and encourages innovation, he added.

“It’s about setting the tone in the organization, demonstrating that the organization is supportive of the people,” said Cochrane.

Providing the right tools for instance, he said, involves modernizing government’s aging back-end systems and, whenever possible, to standardize policies and technologies that drive horizontal growth and alignment across government departments.

Echoing Cochrane’s comments, Lois Fraser, assistant deputy minister for Service BC with British Columbia’s Ministry of Labour and Citizens’ Services, made a presentation on how the province is working towards workforce transformation with the end-goal of improving public service delivery.

The Government of British Columbia has embarked on a citizen-centred service transformation initiative that began in May 2006, which has resulted in over 40 service transformation projects across the province, Fraser said.

At the core of its service delivery strategy is the service value chain, which includes encouraging and allowing different communities to collaboratively and collectively design ways to improve service delivery.

Among the province’s initiatives towards a citizen-centred service delivery is a yearly Work Environment Survey for government workers which started in 2006, said Fraser.

“(The survey) provides evidence around the expectations of employees around how they want to be engaged,” she said.

For instance, in the first Work Environment Survey, despite generally high satisfaction ratings from employees at Service BC, the government got low ratings in the area of tools and environment, said Fraser. At that time about half of the office had outdated and non-standard workstations, she said.

The workstations have been upgraded since then and by the time the second employee survey came out, employee ratings rose 15 points, said Fraser.

“It’s becoming a very interesting lesson in how to learn from what your employees are telling you,” she said.

Although the tools are already available to enable the shift towards a Government 2.0 workplace, Cochrane said the process is just beginning.

But the indications of when the government has finally made the shift would be clear, he said.

“When we’re able to innovate and still respect the need for alignment and interoperability; when we have access to the right tools and the right products to demonstrate that we are connected: (and) when the staff is fully empowered…and we see ourselves widely respected by the quality of our programs,” Cochrane said.

Related content:

GTEC 2007: Government 2.0 targets online collaborative tools

Understanding federated identity

Four steps to innovative service transformation

Q and A with Michael Tschichholz, Competence Center for Electronic Government and Applications, Germany

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