The slow move to integrate technology, government and citizens

A few weeks ago there were municipal elections in Ontario. Like many others in my city, I went to my poll, filled out a  machine-readable ballot and within an hour of the polls closing knew who the new mayor would be.

For some, that’s not a good enough use of technology.

What brings this to mind now is a column by Salesforce executive vice-president Vivek Kundra, former CIO of the U.S. federal government, who argues the recent mid-term elections there showed how technology can play a big role in getting voters. The question is whether people here are using it enough.

The fact that in Toronto an astounding 60 per cent of the electorate turned out to vote — almost twice as many as municipal elections usually pull — was more likely due to a hotly-contested race for the top job rather than sophisticated use of targeted digital ads.

But slowly individuals, associations and governments are getting more comfortable with technology here. You can see it in the open data/open government initiatives from local, provincial and federal governments.

Kundra fears that what he saw as the tremendous use of technology to get out the vote in the U.S. will be used only in a limited way once candidates are in office.

“When campaigning ends and governance begins, the technology employed to communicate with voters needs to continue. The delta between the use of collaborative and engaging technology between the private and public sectors needs to shrink. In the consumer world companies tell customers there is an app for that, in the government world they still say there is a form for that.”

It’s a matter of using technology to help built trust in government, he suggests. The private sector understands that using technology to better meet customer needs helps build trust in companies; the same could be true for governments.

I’m not so sure. For finding certain services, yes — and I just went through an annoying effort today trying to find a the nearest licence bureau to me. You have to know the right words to tickle the search engine. However, I’m not sure that technology helps on hot-button issues like the death penalty, abortion, gun control and climate control.

When and how can technology deal with that?

Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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