A historic partnership has been launched between the Ontario government and a consortium of companies that is to transform the province into a world leader in e-government.
Government services will be made accessible anywhere, anytime through multiple channels including the Internet, telephone and self-serve terminals, to be placed in high-traffic areas around the province.
“This landmark contract signals the arrival of the government of the 21st century, bringing government services to consumers when, where, and how they want them,” said Consumer and Business Services Minister Norm Sterling.
Service delivery will start in 2002 with 24 straightforward, often-used services, such as vehicle registrations and renewals and address changes.
KPMG Consulting will provide the overall leadership, strategy and vision of the project, as well as designing and building the IT Interface and implementing the technology that will protect the personal privacy of Ontarians. Minister Sterling emphasized the importance of protecting citizens’ privacy. “Protection of privacy is a key part of this contract,” he said.
Martin McGrath, President, Public Services Practice Canada, KPMG Consulting, noted that “citizens own their personal information and have the right to decide how it is used. The proven architecture and processes that KPMG Consulting has developed solve the privacy issues that have challenged governments around the world in their entry into the new economy.”
While users will be provided with convenient access to all ministries through a single interface, ministries will not be able to share information unless citizens give their consent and the sharing is permitted under the government’s new Privacy Standards. Furthermore, through its technology, KPMG Consulting will ensure that no “super profiles” on citizens are being created.
In addition to preventing the unauthorized sharing of information between ministries, KPMG Consulting will ensure that the IT Interface encrypts information, thus preventing consortium partners and even its own consultants from accessing citizens’ private information in the course of their work.
Finally, all information on the citizen will be deleted at the end of the transaction. None of the consortium partners will be able to retain any citizen information.
The concern of access to vulnerable groups has been addressed. A strategy devised by KPMG Consulting will be put in place to ensure that all citizens, regardless of location, social standing and education, will be able to benefit from this initiative.
More than 300 multi-media terminals will be available in high traffic areas, such as airports, bus and train stations, malls, hospitals, highway rest stops and retail outlets. The consortium will work with selected community outreach centres to install computer terminals with Internet access. User fees will not be paid by Ontarians accessing services -this includes pay phone calls, which will be made at no charge to citizens.
Minister Sterling further promised that Ontarians uncomfortable with the new technologies would continue to have choices in accessing government services. He said that citizens would still be able to use over-the-counter service or mail as alternatives to electronic delivery.
KPMG’s McGrath said that “this initiative sets an example of how citizens benefit when they are offered an attractive on-line alternative to standing in line for service.”
“It will give individuals the ability to access relevant services in a way that reflects their individual needs, preferences and lifestyle.”
The government will pay on a per transaction basis, thus avoiding a large upfront investment. In this way, the initiative is a low-risk venture for Ontario that promises to improve dramatically the delivery of government services to its citizens.
Jamie Sawchuk (firstname.lastname@example.org) is managing director of KPMG Consulting’s Canadian e-government practice.