Regina university to research e-governance

The University of Regina is about to establish a research chair in e-governance financed with $2 million over 10 years from Cisco Systems Inc.

The chair in the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy will be used to support research into how governments can use technology to drive collaboration and productivity.

It was one of two research chairs announcements made this week by Cisco. The networking equipment and unified communications company also said it will fund a $2 million research chair in mining solutions at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

IT-related issues in mining include remote monitoring of robotic mining equipment, seismic activity and tunnel closure rates; monitoring ventilation air flow rates and air quality; and transmitting biometric and location data on workers. Collaboration between staff in remote mining sites is also a possible research area, the university and Cisco said in a news release.
University of Regina president and vice-chancellor Vianne Timmons said the e-governance chair will foster close relationships with the private sector and government.

“Through this partnership we will help move public sector governance policy and practice forward to keep pace with the rapid evolution of communication technology in areas such as social media,” she said in a news release.

(Cisco Canada`s Kawale and URegina president Timmons. URegina photo)

The persons holding the chair will look at how governments can communicate better with citizens, businesses and other governments through enhanced use of technologies such as video, information sharing and online collaboration
The release said e-governance research may include developing best practices in sharing government information, promoting government services, recruiting and retaining public sector employees and ‘virtual government.’

In an interview Timmons said Cisco didn’t have a goal in mind when discussions started about its interest in donating a research chair. The institution worked with the vendor to narrow the focus.

While she acknowledged that Cisco’s has an interest in results that shows the benefits of technology, there will be no restrictions on the research.

“They didn’t just give us $2 million and tell us what to do with it,” she said. If there are “unexpected results” the researcher will be expected to publish them.

Cisco’s fund alone won’t be behind the chair, she added. The university will have to find more financing from individuals and the provincial government.

The position will likely be advertised in January and she hopes it will be filled by July. The winning candidate – who won’t necessarily be Canadian – will be have doctoral-level experience and likely already be doing research in the area.

“The ability of networked technologies, video and the Internet to improve communication and transactional capacities are key processes of public sector modernization,” Cisco Canada president Nitin Kawale said in a statement. “Government must enhance their networking capacity and adapt to virtual environments and the transformative power of video.”

Local, provincial and federal governments have started to work on this area, broadly called open government.

It includes making government data publicly available through open data portals so developers can create new apps, encouraging public servants to make better use of social media to communicate with each other and letting residents use social media to communicate with the governments.


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