Nunavut’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 Nunavut CIO Peter Baril on how this applied to the work he’s doing in Canada’s youngest territory.

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

Peter Baril: One of the things that I began to question some years ago during the Lac Carling conference is the whole question of citizen-centred service, because syntactically and semantically, it sets up a juxtaposition between the service provider and the person who it is providing it to. So there is sense in which saying “citizen-centred service” still put the emphasis back on us as government delivering the service.

What is beginning to emerge now, and I think is going to take over the whole space, is self-service. It’s far more representative of where this thing is heading … a little bit like going into a grocery store and selecting the things you want. Obviously, there are still going to be public sector people there that will help you find the service that you need and answer questions, that kind of thing, but by and large, that’s the main direction this is all moving in … where the systems will be set up in such a way that effectively each of us goes in and looks after ourselves.

CIO Canada: What are the biggest challenges to making the citizen-centred service concept real and what kind of technologies play a key role in changing service delivery in the future?

Baril: The single biggest piece is identity management. Right now, we think about identity management and authentication a little more along the lines of the citizen having to prove themselves to somebody. The emphasis there will need to change as well.

… Is the character on the other side of the counter at four o’clock in the morning really a pharmacist? Is he checking properly on the identity of your doctor? Is he then making sure the person at the counter really is me using my health care card?

… With this focus on self-service, one of the fundamental pieces, technically and technologically both, will be how do each of the people involved in the transaction double-check and make sure that the other people involved in the transaction are really who they say they are.

… The citizen has to have a way, when they are serving themselves, of making sure that other people involved in the transaction are really who they say they are – and that’s when we get into the whole issue of claims-based identity and authentication. That’s probably the single biggest technical issue that needs to be sorted out over the next few years.

CIO Canada: How will next-generation, citizen-centered service delivery change inter-jurisdictional (federal/provincial/municipal) relationships?

Baril: The biggest change will probably be from the service seekers point of view … the lines between the jurisdictions should disappear. It’s as simple as that. Right now, we think of it as inter-jurisdictional because they are so separate from each other. Done properly, the citizen coming and looking for each of us, coming and looking for service, shouldn’t have to worry about whether it’s municipal or provincial or federal.

CIO Canada: How will citizens directly contribute to the evolution of service delivery through technology?

Baril: There are two parts to your question. One is how will they contribute … the second issue is then, technically, how is that done.

The issue in the past has been that politicians, by and large, are very interested in hearing from people who can speak about their attempts to attain service in first-person singular, meaning real personal experiences – but without whining about how badly they were treated so much as has having honest-to-goodness, thoughtful suggestions as to how things can be improved.

In any given screw up that happens day-to-day in the service provisions, there might be 30 or 40 people that fall into that category … The question becomes for politicians is: How do you separate those 30 or 40 comments that they desperately want to hear from the cacophony of usual suspects (the organized lobby groups and the special interest groups and so forth that bombard politicians day after day after day)?

… Eventually, there will be technologies out there that will allow the elected representatives to hear more accurately and more specifically from people who have experienced obtaining service, and to hear that from ordinary people who have something thoughtful to say outside of this barrage of activist and somewhat self-serving special lobby feedback.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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