In her keynote address to an opening-day audience at Gartner’s Symposium/ITxpo 2001 in Toronto, Michelle D’Auray updated the status of Canada’s Government On-Line (GOL) project. In 1999, and again in early 2001, the federal government announced its intention of making government information and services available online anytime and anywhere by 2004, a date that she admitted is looming.
On the one-year anniversary of her appointment to the position of CIO of the federal government of Canada, D’Auray said that the purpose of the GOL initiative is to offer a service to Canadians that is of a direct benefit to its users. It needs to be easy to use, organized to meet the priorities of Canadians, and should save time, effort and cost.
Additionally, the completed GOL project is intended to increase the range of service offerings, and perhaps most importantly, improve the quality and level of service that citizens currently experience in telephone or in-person transactions. This, D’Auray explained, involves a change in methodology and a joining up of services from various departments to facilitate hassle-free service to its users.
“It’s not about doing what we do badly, faster,” she said.
According to D’Auray, the government is on the right track in its push for online services. Although the majority of Canadians currently use the telephone to access government services, this method gets the lowest rating in satisfaction surveys. While far fewer Canadians are presently using the Internet to access information and services, the overall satisfaction rating for this channel is consistently high.
She commented that although Canadians spend more time online than residents of any other country in the world do, most people do not spend the bulk of their Internet time on the Government of Canada’s Web site.
“I think this is a good thing,” she laughed.
The biggest hurdle that D’Auray foresees is providing Canadians with a comfort level for providing information online.
“People [currently] will send some information, but still want to complete their online transactions another way,” she said, noting that people will buy things online, but have a hard time giving out personal information. This, D’Auray said, will likely change as the online services and security measures evolve.
One difficulty that D’Auray has encountered in moving government services onto the Internet is the facilitation of communication between governmental areas. The GOL project not only needs to be co-ordinated across the government, but also is required to be collaborative across departments and jurisdictions.
“This is big work,” D’Auray admitted. “It’s tough work.”
She outlined the five key components to the GOL initiative, which include the online delivery of key services, and a shared infrastructure, which will reduce costs and enable interoperability and cross channel integration. Other components involve a setting of policy frameworks, service improvement and a concerted approach to improving human resources.
“We’re at the tip of the iceberg in many respects,” she said.
D’Auray closed her speech with a statistic from an April 2001 Accenture report, which ranks Canada as number one in its GOL efforts among 22 nations including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
She told the audience that a colleague pointed out that being ranked first leaves only one direction to move when the next report comes out. Laughing, D’Auray said that she’d be satisfied if Canada stays in the top five in the next ranking, which she described as being “a nice, typical Canadian attitude.”
The government of Canada’s Web site can be found at www.canada.gc.ca.