Former Fed CIO sees progress on ‘digital economy’ journey

NIAGARA ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. – All three levels of government will have to be more collaborative and focused if they want to realize their goals around improving service delivery, according to a man who once led IT strategy across Canada’s public sector.
In an interview with CIO Canada at the 15th annual Lac Carling Congress, Ken Cochrane – who was federal chief information officer from 2006 to 2008 and who joined consulting firm KPMG last year – said many of the discussions and plenary sessions over the past few days have showed encouraging early signs. Getting to a point where technology truly gets Canadians what they need faster, more accurately and easily, however, is another matter.

“There’s been a lot of talk about our evolution towards what people are calling the ‘digital economy,’” Cochrane said. “We’ve gone through the early stages of that, and we’ve learned a lot as a country, and we’ve learned a lot about how to make services available in a digital world, but the true digital economy is far more encompassing than what we’ve seen.”

Cochrane said he believes Canada still has a lot to learn from other countries about electronic service delivery, including emerging economies which he said could move a lot faster than many people realize.

“We’re going to need to work together harder, faster,” he added.

Other vendors at Lac Carling were also encouraged by the conversations happening among delegates. Jim Short, national sales director at CA Technologies Canada, has been coming to Lac Carling for 13 years.  

“There’s been a change in philosophy n the context of citizens and service delivery,” he said. “It used to be that we’d talk about these issues and someone would say, ‘Well, what about that person in B.C. who doesn’t understand technology?’ and all the policies and programs would be focused on appealing to that individual.”

Today, there’s a much greater realization of how widespread technology is being used by younger generations and what their expectations are, Short added. There’s also a major uptake in public sector organizations using technology to support project and portfolio management, which is one of product areas in which CA Technologies plays a major role.

This year’s Lac Carling also brought in some new vendors, including Rogers Communications, which, although best known as a consumer-oriented company, has been developing its profile in the government space, according to director of public sector Ed Van Stiphout.

“This thing that we’re seeing where citizens are looking for immediate information, on devices of their choosing like smart phones, tablets and so on, that’s the root of where Rogers is going in Canada,” he said. “That seems to be in step with the government’s direction as well.”

Lac Carling, which is produced by IT World Canada, wrapped up Tuesday.

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