Canadians’ online dealings with govt up 400 per cent
THE INTERNET IS becoming the Canadians’ preferred method for accessing government services, according to a recent report. The 2005 Government On-Line (GOL) annual report, titled From Vision to Reality…and Beyond, said 31 per cent of Canadians’ most recent contacts with the government were via the Internet. Online interactions with all levels of government have increased by 30 per cent, from 150 million in 2001 to almost 600 million in 2004. The 2005 GOL target is to advance the capacity of the 130 most commonly used online services of the federal government. While all 130 are online, according to Ken Cochrane CEO of Public Works and Government Services Canada’s (PWGSC) IT Services Branch, they offer various degrees of functionality and will continue to evolve beyond 2005. “Seventy-one services have met their 2005 service progression targets,” Cochrane said. “The remaining 59 are at an average of 80 per cent completion, and are on schedule to achieve their targets by December 2005.” Cochrane said individual milestones were established for each service to match the substantial increase in demand through 2004 and beyond 2005, but the GOL initiative only acts as a catalyst and an enabler, distributing and overseeing funds for online services, as well as monitoring the most commonly used services. “The GOL Initiative is near completion this year, and many GOL services are already being promoted to Canadians. The Canada Revenue Agency is actively marketing My Account, their online tax service,” Cochrane said. Cochrane also said users can expect to see a more integrated approach to service delivery including tighter integration between different service delivery channels (Internet, telephone, counter service and mail).
Poor management results in telecom overspending in T.O.
THE CITY OF Toronto needs to conduct proactive audits and more frequent reviews of its telecom expenditure to avoid the mismanagement uncovered by the auditor general’s report, some experts say. They were responding to a report by Toronto Auditor General Jeffrey Griffiths, who revealed that the City had grossly overspent on telecom products and services. The report cited poor management as the main culprit in the six-figure overspending. It revealed that delays in finalizing and signing certain telecommunications contracts cost the city around $585,000. According to the report, the city failed to follow up on billing errors, nor did it have any policies in place for cell phone and Internet use by employees. One telecom analyst believes the overspending is typical of a cavalier attitude sometimes found in public sector organizations. Such mismanagement, said Roger Yang, CEO of Avema Corporation, a Toronto-based telecom expense management firm, “is more likely [to happen] in government [which is] not as focused on the bottom line as [private] corporations.” Governments at every level – including the City of Toronto – are being held more accountable for how they spend taxpayer dollars, according to Roberta Fox, senior partner with Fox Group, a consulting firm in Markham, Ont. She said Toronto taxpayers are unlikely to “open up their purse strings and say we are giving you more money for IT.” Fox recommended the city go through all its telecom costs twice a year as once a year was not enough. The report called for a contract management framework to ensure that new contracts are properly reviewed, approved and executed before the last contract expires.
Ontario Ministry of Education’s province-wide computer lab
NETSUPPORT CANADA HAS been awarded a contract from the Ontario Ministry of Education to provide province-wide computer lab instructional software for educational collaboration, presentation and supervision. Included in the contract are publicly funded elementary and secondary schools, as well as faculties of education and First Nations schools. NetSupport School is a software tool that allows instructors to broadcast one student’s or teacher’s computer screen to a whole class, freeze screens while instruction is taking place, allow more than one student machine to collaborate with other machines and view students’ machines while they are working. Under the terms, NetSupport Canada will also provide a year of technical support and maintenance.