It’s time to reimagine municipal service delivery

There has never been a better opportunity to transform municipal services for citizens.  That was a key message during a panel discussion on next-generation service delivery at ITWC’s Technicity GTA conference.

“The question is really less about how we deliver and more about why and who we’re delivering the services for,” said Timothy Schnare, regional sales manager for Central Canada with Cradlepoint. “It’s not simply about automating service delivery, it’s reimagining the service.”

The timing is right because of a big change in mindset over the past two years, said the panelists. “Those things that we thought were impossible were, all of a sudden, possible, because they needed to be,” said Chad MacDonald, the chief information officer for the City of Burlington. He noted that there is now greater willingness in the public sector try new things.

As a result, the public sector has proven that it can move to digital services with a “mind-boggling speed,” said Suresh Andani, senior director, cloud vertical marketing with AMD.

Building a strong foundation for next-gen services

The ability to speed things up depends on the right foundation, said Lawrence Eta, chief technology officer for the City of Toronto. He described four essential building blocks to ensure a solid foundation. The first is that the environment must be stable. “Without stability, you have nothing,” he said.  Second, there must be an integrated solution across the organization. “We can’t have a mismatch of technology solutions,” said Eta. The third requirement is that everything must have the ability to scale.

The fourth pillar is sustainability which rests upon a well-crafted cyber security strategy.  “You can’t have technology, without security by design,” said Eta. He urged all municipalities to recognize that CISOs play a vital role and should have a seat at the table with senior leadership.

As well, all organizations should conduct an emergency exercise to test their cyber security response plans, added Frank Di Palma, CIO for the City of Vaughan.

Create a smart city, not just a clever one

There are clever solutions, “but really, that kind of misses the point of what a smart city is about,” said Schnare. The key is to create a common shared infrastructure that generates data that can be combined to support innovative services, he said. For example, traffic data can be used to improve routes for ambulances as well as salting trucks.

To achieve this, the digital transformation strategy must be coordinated from the top down, stressed Andani.  It’s also crucial for the IT team to know the needs of the business and the citizens, said Luisa Andrews, vice president, information technology services with the Toronto Community Housing Corp. “The better we understand our businesses, the better we can deliver exceptional service to them,” she said.

Service for all citizens

The shift to digital service delivery isn’t about eliminating other channels, said MacDonald. “It’s about what the customer experience needs to be, and that will dictate where you need to offer that service.”

Policy changes and investments in digital literacy will also be necessary to serve everyone, no matter their age or income, said Eta.  He emphasized the need to build a diverse and inclusive team. “In government, we are there to serve the people,” he said. “So, I think that our workforce, our leadership and all levels of our organization need to reflect the people we serve.”

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Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker has over 20 years of experience in IT-related fields in the public and private sectors, as a lawyer and strategic advisor. She is a former broadcast journalist, currently working as a consultant, freelance writer and editor.

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