InterGovWorld.com’s Spotlight series profiles Executives, decision-makers and their initiatives across all levels of Canadian government.
(PWGSC Photo / Mario Baril)
In part one of InterGovWorld’s Spotlight series, senior writer Lisa Williams spoke with Paul Hession, Director General of Service Qualification and Transition at PWGSC about GTEC, his work in both the private and public sector, and the changing role of the CIO. Part two looks at the challenges of his job, the future of online services for citizens, and the evolution of e-government.
E-government vs. government
Q) A lot of people that I’ve spoken with have said there is no difference between e-government and government. Do you think there is a separation between the two or are they one and the same?
A) They are in my personal view one and the same. I see e-government as a channel to deliver public sector services. E-government has enabled us to improve Canadians citizens’ online access to government services, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, even though we still work as individual departments and agencies.
As we transform further we will provide the government of Canada with a more holistic or government-wide focus. It will be more of a seamless engine to deliver these services to citizens businesses and public sector employees. Accenture already says Canada is a global leader and I think where we’re going will keep us in that innovative forefront.
When we build this IT shared services organization it’s going to give us that solid platform. It will make us more efficient with the use of those resources, not just the physical stuff but the people and the financial resources needed to maintain it.
Q) What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your job?
A) The first challenge is simply the process that will allow us to transition government resources to this new shared services environment. There was no textbook or recipe for that, so the real challenge is putting that in place.
The second thing is keeping people committed to this vision, not just at the federal level but as we get into more seamless public service and you know a citizen doesn’t care if it’s a federal, provincial or local service, they want to see convergence there. E-health is a good example of how these jurisdictions integrate and how important electronic health will be to public safety and preserving accurate records.
The third challenge is the creation of a sustainable environment of partnership and collaboration. The last thing is communication and having this community speak with one voice as we continue down this road.
Serving the citizens of the future
Q) I’m wondering then if services will be driven by the demands of the more tech-savvy youth and if that will define how you will be moving forward?
A) The citizen is the centre of this whole effort. How they perceive their public services and how they receive those services is what this is all about and we are creating a common platform. I call it the back-office engine that will drive out those transactions. But at the end of the day these interactions are defined by legislation as to what programs are created to service citizens such as old-age security. I attended a presentation from an Assistant Deputy Minister at Service Canada who was telling us that up to 90 per cent in certain areas of their transactions are now technology-enabled, i.e. direct deposit. The old days where you were at the risk of labour disruptions in postal services — you don’t worry about that anymore.
Q) What do you think citizens need to be more aware of with online services, or do you think they already are pretty tuned into how things are moving?
A) We shouldn’t expect citizens to have to figure this out, we have to figure out what they need, and adapt these channels to their requirements. Because not only do you have people who can’t afford technology, there are also people who have handicaps. We have to adapt these tools to meet those needs and we should deal with citizens in a way that’s more centered on their needs and less on the protocols of the back office.
Q) So you’re saying the onus is really on the government then with respect to being more aware of these services?
A) Yes. It’s translating those legislative decisions into ways of actually delivering at points of service across the country and creating awareness that people are eligible for these services.
To visit Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC’s) web site, click here.
Part I of Spotlight on Paul Hession is available here.
Click here to access an archive of all past InterGovWorld.com spotlights.