Ominous signs for government online

Besides the incredible shock of learning that governments in power actually dole out favourable contracts to friendly corporate supporters, we learned something else from the recent Auditor General’s report. Namely, that Canada’s reputation as an online government leader isn’t as secure as it once was.

Ottawa launched the Government On-Line (GOL) initiative in 1999, promising to deliver public services to citizees online in a secure and and conveneinet way by 2005. And for the first several years, progress was impressive enough to warrant Canada first-pace finishes in Accenture’s world ranking of e-government serivces in 2001 and 2002. This not only helped Canadians access benefits online, it gave Canada an edge in the global market.

But AG Sheila Fraser says that edge is at risk of disappearing. In her report, she found that “many difficult issues remain to be resolved before the GOL vision can become a reality.”

Some of the challenges facing GOL will sound might familiar to project managers. Fraser pointed to lack of change management plans in government departments. She also noted that not enough attention is being paid to staffing needs or user requirements, or how departments plan to “integrate their numerous information systems, and develop new business processes.”

But perhaps more alarming is the issue of funding. Ottawa estimated the cost of GOL at $2 billion, but provided only $880 million in direct funding. The rest of the money is to be found within each department, through “internal cost savings, new funding and reallocation of funds.”

Enough said.

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