B.C.’s CIO: Why citizens deserve self-service

At our recent Lac Carling Congress, we explored the theme of “next generation, citizen-centred service delivery.” We spoke with CIO Dave Nikolejsin on how this applies to the work he’s doing in British Columbia.

CIO Canada: How do you define next-generation, citizen-centred service delivery in terms of your department or organization?

Nikolejsin: To us, next-generation service delivery is really all about what I call “getting the hard stuff online.” And you can tell it’s the hard stuff because it’s the things citizens really want and are demanding. A good example would be health records. Go get your blood test – why can’t I go get my results online? Why can’t I interact with my kids’ school teacher online? Why can’t I get their report card? … The next-generation of services will be those high value, hard-to-do services that will require strong identity management.
CIO Canada: What are the biggest challenges to making the citizen-centred service concept real?

Nikolejsin: One of the biggest challenges we see, and the focus of why I’m here actually, is to try to get some collaboration happening across Canada on identity management. One of the biggest impediments we see is the need to constantly drag people to a counter somewhere – so you can produce your drivers license or birth certificate or whatever it is – so that we can then perhaps give you a user ID that you can then take home and use to get online for the next time you deal with us on those kind of transactions. Having to do that, program by program, is not going to work. We’ve got three levels of government, tons of programs, it just doesn’t work. So what we are working on, and one of the biggest challenges, is getting that identity system working as a service that we can then offer up to programs online.
CIO Canada: What kind of technologies play a key role in changing service delivery in the near future? 

Nikolejsin: One of the key technology spaces we are working in is identity management. So we’ve really settled on the ADFS 2 technology and some of the standards we’ve embraced are WS-Fed and SAML. We are using those standards to make sure that whatever we do is interoperable and so we are focusing a lot of our investment right now on creating the corporate infrastructure around those kinds of technologies, such that as we spool up new applications and new programs and they try to offer themselves online, they can just draw down on that corporate infrastructure. 
CIO Canada: How will next-generation, citizen-centered service delivery change inter-jurisdictional (federal/provincial/municipal) relationships?

Nikolejsin: Again, if you go back to the definition of next-generation services being all about those hard-to-do services or those high value services, the difference will be, again, how do I get to do that online. Because right now, a lot of it is either mail or fax or you just can’t do things. There’s a lot of frustration whenever you have to cross these jurisdictions … I need some sort of document from one government to present to another government so that I can get a service or prove that I haven’t been denied a service in another jurisdiction and those kinds of things – it is really hard work right now because it is all paper-based or mail or fax or something like that or putting attachments into e-mails and trying to do it that way, which is very insecure. So I think the difference you’ll see is when we can get some sort of co-operation on standards or implementation so we can move those services online in a very secure way between jurisdictions.

CIO Canada: How will citizens directly contribute to the evolution of service delivery through technology?Nikolejsin: In B.C., and I think it’s the same in a lot of places, we see citizens moving to self-service … There is only so much money. There is no more money to invest in maintaining all of these offices in all of these towns and getting all of these things online. So we really are trying to encourage citizens, whenever possible, to use the online channel. It’s better for them, it’s easier, they like it a lot better, they can do it from home, they don’t have to drive in. And every time we move one of those transactions online, it’s a dollar we save that we can then invest in that front-line channel for people that actually need it. So we can keep those offices open longer and in more places because we actually have resources to do that with because we’ve saved money by moving the high volume stuff online. 

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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