Tech travel Nova Scotia

Known for its lighthouses, iconic Blue Nose ship, scrumptious seafood and lively Celtic music, Nova Scotia may not be the first province that pops into your head when you think of technology leaders in Canada. But that may soon change.

Not only is the province armed with an ambitious e-channel strategy spearheaded by Service Nova Scotia, an aggressive recruitment campaign has also been launched within all sectors (including IT) to lure former Nova Scotians back home. It appears that this Maritime province is well on its way to becoming a leader in e-government.

Located in the East Coast, picturesque Nova Scotia is the second smallest province in Canada, and is almost completely surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean with a population of approximately 940,000. While Nova Scotia’s strong points have traditionally been resource-based, including the mining and agriculture sectors, its economy has become more diverse as technology and finance add to the mix.

At the Shifting Sands service transformation conference in November presented on behalf of Dalhousie University’s School of Public Administration and the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), Service Nova Scotia’s Darlene Joyce spoke about the restructuring of services across multiple channels.

E-channel makeover

“Part of our five-year plan that we’ve established includes ‘One Client, One Vision’ as part of achieving client-centric service delivery,” said Joyce, Service Nova Scotia’s director of e-service.

The One Client, One Vision program essentially provides citizens a one-stop-shopping experience for accessing government services, as opposed to having to go to different departments or branches for different services.

Joyce stressed the importance for government service providers to understand the services they’re providing as well as the services that clients expect, as part of a more integrated service delivery vision.

“Performance measurement is key to ensure that we’re giving citizens what they need,” said Joyce.

Service Nova Scotia is currently providing 50 programs, and has 39 offices across the province with over 1.5 million citizen-based services.

“With our online channel we have over 600,000 information requests with 90,000 transactions, and 10 access centres,” said Joyce.

She also outlined the channel strategy guiding principles, which include the consideration of authentication, privacy, security and program compliance requirements, customer needs and preferences, and alignment with government policy. She added that the online channel will be established as a basis for other channels.

“We want to leverage existing systems that we have (i.e. business registration) to enhance service delivery.”

In addition to enhancing the province’s e-service delivery, Nova Scotia is also looking to beef up its workforce. The province recently launched Opportunities Nova Scotia, the objective of which is to recruit former Nova Scotians and other job-seekers to the province.

“We’re expecting an average of nearly 13,000 new job openings annually over the next five years,” said Premier Rodney MacDonald in a press statement. “By bringing together some of Nova Scotia’s top businesses, which are prepared to win employees in a very competitive climate, we can demonstrate the strength of our economy and show that there are high-quality jobs right now in Nova Scotia.”

Organizations that are participating in the recruitment campaign include Halifax Regional Municipality, Maritime Forces Atlantic, Capital District Health Authority and the Public Service Commission. Currently, about 30,000 Nova Scotian’s are employed by these organizations throughout the province.

In addition to hosting networking events throughout the country, a virtual recruitment campaign has been created online with job postings at:

HR consulting firm The People Bank has been hired by the Nova Scotia government to facilitate the events and run the online recruitment campaign.

Opportunities Nova Scotia is occurring in two phases. The first was deemed a success by the province as it connected 95 employers (representing more than 2,300 jobs) with 4,500 job seekers in Nova Scotia. The second phase involves Nova Scotia employers visiting cities in Ontario and Alberta, and will also include networking events.

Part of the reason for launching the Opportunities Nova Scotia campaign was to address the aging and evolving workforce of the province, according to Service Nova Scotia Minister Jamie Muir.

Over the next five years, approximately 45,000 Nova Scotia workers will be eligible for retirement. The occupations that will be most affected include management, health, education, government, and financial services.

The province expects to see the most job opportunities opening up in the areas of healthcare, aerospace, financial services, IT and the skilled trades, according to Deborah Bayer of Service Nova Scotia.

Statistics Canada has already seen an estimated 30 per cent increase in the number of individuals moving to Nova Scotia from other provinces and territories in Canada last year, compared to Nova Scotia’s average in-migration over the previous three years.

Broadband coverage

“We’ve got a lot of stuff going, but we’ve got some areas to catch up on,” said Muir. “The province is committing to having 100 per cent broadband coverage by the end of 2009.”

Muir added that in order to establish a complete e-delivery system, the broadband coverage is a necessary component. “It’s been a major priority of the government for the last two years or so.”

He said that once the broadband is up and running, then a lot of other projects will be able to come to fruition.

“We’ve actually leveraged technology on quite a number of fronts. One is the BizPal partnership with the federal government which is up in two pilot sites, and the initial feedback from that is pretty encouraging,” said Muir.

“For those who are in the business world and have to deal with three levels of government, to have three levels of government sitting down at least (with BizPal) you can go to one place to get the information that you need and proceed from there.”

He noted that it will take time but eventually the goal is to have common forms at all levels of government. For example, a form that the federal government requires which has the same information as what a provincial government form would have will be combined into a single form.

“I see the expansion of that not only making the information centralized, but it really should improve the process and make it more user-friendly,” Muir said.

Another initiative in Nova Scotia that has been in operation for a couple of years is the Property Online initiative, according to Muir.

“We’re now moving to an electronic system of registering properties and we’ve got over half a million properties which have migrated to that new system.”

The province requires people in the legal profession who are in the business of property transactions to use the Property Online service, he said.

Another project underway is the Nova Scotia business registry which works in conjunction with the province’s Access Centres.

Access Nova Scotia is a provincial government initiative designed to improve access to programs and services at all three levels of government, and to make it easier to do business with the government. Access Nova Scotia Centres provide hands-on information, forms, applications, and services including counselling and mediation.

“We are trying continually to design new systems, and upgrade our technology so we can serve the people better.” Muir said.
Related content:

Access Nova Scotia opens more doors

Public service needs ‘constant evolution’, says Nova Scotia exec

Provinces eye one-stop-shop for service delivery

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