"2004 and Beyond"

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Notes for an Address by

Mel Cappe
Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet

at the
Technology in Government Week
October 2, 2000
Ottawa, Ontario

Check Against Delivery


Good morning! Once again, it is a pleasure to be part of the official launch for Technology in Government Week. This event is the ideal opportunity to consider our choices and potential. Thanks to Industry Canada, I know I'm being Web cast to people who can't be here in person. So, I want to make it clear that I relinquish all copyrights to these remarks. I'm not worried about the royalty cheques. Go ahead, download the MP3 file of my comments this morning, burn them onto your own CDs and trade them on-line. After all, I want listeners; I want the biggest audience for my messages on E-Government.

This morning I want to start by talking about the value of this event for all public servants. From there, I want to focus on how the Government On-line initiative fits as part of the larger commitment to E-Government. I want to talk about how we are already well on the way to success with Government On-line. And I want to recognize some of the important challenges that we face in meeting our 2004 Government On-line target.

Finally, I want to look past 2004. I want to comment on the larger transformation that I think E-Government means - a transformation that is essential to enable Canada to reach its goals in the 21st century - a transformation that people in the Public Service Canada need to consciously shape.

I have two key messages for today. First, E-Government is key to building a higher quality of life for all Canadians and keeping Canada on the leading edge of the knowledge revolution. Second, making E-Government a reality will require a concerted effort - everyone has a role to play.

The value of Technology in Government Week

First, I want to talk about the value of Technology in Government Week. I am a big supporter of this event. When I was thinking about my remarks today, I realized that I have been attending Technology in Government Week since the early 1990s.

The audience has historically been made up mostly of propeller heads - as Richard Manicom proudly called his crowd. So, I made a point of telling deputy ministers recently that they should encourage their program, policy and service delivery executives to attend. Just by touring the exhibition, they can get ideas on how to bring change to their activities, how to improve service delivery. They can get a real sense of how much the technology that's already available can help them improve what they do and how they do it.

There is a lot to choose from in the three major components of this event.In fact, I'm told that the organizers expect 1,500 people just for the conference and its professional development program. There will also be 8,500 visitors to the GTEC Exhibition and its 600 exhibitors from the public and private sectors.

Finally, a major highlight of Technology in Government Week is this evening's Distinction Awards Gala. I see the Gala as sort of the "technology olympics" for governments in Canada. Eighty-nine public servants from all levels of government will be honoured. And some 43 medals will be awarded to the most outstanding individuals and teams.

I'm happy to say that I have been known to hoot, holler and whistle loudly at that Gala. Why? Because I am proud of the people who have worked so hard and of the kinds of innovations and creativity that win those awards. We deserve to really celebrate these kinds of accomplishments, and there are many.

Of course, Technology in Government Week showcases how all levels of government are putting technology to work for their citizens - as well as putting technology to work in partnership between and across governments.

During Technology in Government Week 2000, there is going to be more provincial and municipal participation than ever, with a special focus on the Manitoba government's technology innovations.

This is not just a Canadian event either. International participation in this event is impressive. The conference agenda is full of opportunities to hear about innovative public sector experiences around the world. This is matched by the presence of delegations from more than 25 countries who are here to learn what is happening in Canada and to share their knowledge on enabling public service through technology.

I especially want to welcome the 26 delegates from other countries who are here for the Strategic Information Management Program sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency.

I also want to welcome the 18 delegates who are here from Brazil. Among them I want to single out the representative from TV Ventura. Our Canadian consulate general in São Paulo selected TV Ventura as an award winner in public sector IT innovation in Brazil, and a trip to Ottawa for this event was the prize. Congratulations!

E-Government - A journey well under way

One of the interesting facts about Technology in Government Week is the way it often corresponds with major government activities. I want to turn to one of the most important of them now, the Government On-line element of our larger E-Government work.

Just before the 1999 Technology in Government Week, the Government of Canada made an important commitment in the Speech from the Throne:

The Government will become a model user of information technology and the Internet. By 2004, our goal is to be known around the world as the government most connected to its citizens, with Canadians able to access all government information and services on-line at the time and place of their choosing.

When the Government On-line initiative was set out, I expect that most of you said - "It's about time!" In fact, some people probably wondered, "Why five years?" Why so long? That's not exactly a world record or gold medal pace from many perspectives. In the private sector that kind of time frame would be laughed at as far too slow. If a bank said that within five years they would be fully on-line, markets would cut their stock value and shareholders would be livid. Yet we got kudos for setting that target.

And we affected other governments too. The U.K. government already had a 2008 time line for their on-line commitment. Once we aimed for 2004, they responded by moving their target date to 2005.

I want to make two points about the 2004 time frame. First, we already have an impressive base - we are not starting from scratch. In the race to 2004, we are already well down the track. Second, facing our remaining challenges is why we have a five-year target - and why we can rightfully call it ambitious. Those challenges mean that we're not in a sprint, we're running a triathlon.

So, first let me talk about the impressive base we already have. We already have an excellent foundation for on-line government services. There are a lot of achievements to date. We were the first to connect all our schools and libraries to the Internet. We have an extensive public access network in place for Canadians to use. We have designed policies and mechanisms that will help us move to on-line government.

A lot of government information is already on-line. Canadians can access over 450 federal websites from the Canada website. Our weather forecasts, health information, job listings and much more are on-line.

We have focussed on putting cultural and scientific content on the Web. By visiting our museums on-line, people see even more than they would in person.

Income tax filing has become one of our biggest on-line services. Last year, 3.8 million Canadians were invited to file their taxes over the Net, and I was one who responded to that invitation.

E-Government - Issues ahead

Knowing that the base is in place leads to my next point: the challenges we still face in achieving our 2004 commitment. A few moments ago, I said that many of you thought, "About time!" when it came to the 2004 commitment. But I know that a lot of other peoples' faces went white with fear - executives, managers, technology specialists alike. All thought, "How are we going to deliver all our programs and services on-line? How are we going to deliver complex benefit programs on-line? How are we going to get all our technologies working together? How are we going to manage service delivery through multiple channels with consistent quality and content? How are we going to meet expectations for service in both official languages or for people with disabilities?"

A lot of the challenge we face comes down to the very high expectations of Canadians and the very low level of risk they are willing to accept, especially on security and privacy issues.

We have to show Canadians that their electronic dealings with us will be secure, that their privacy will be protected and that programs will be protected from abuse. They want to know that we are always making sure that no 14-year-old hacker in Europe gets benefits because he has convinced our computers he was really an 80-year-old Canadian veteran's widow. They want to know that no17-year-old with time on her hands in Asia can get at the personal income data for thousands of Canadians.

I said 3.8 million Canadians were invited to file their taxes over the Internet last year, but fewer than one million did. Why? They want our protection.

And they are absolutely right, which is why we're working hard on those and other issues. For example, I am proud that the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) has an extremely strong reputation with Canada's private sector when it comes to security and privacy.

We also have to address the challenges associated with speed of service. Just as the old Olympic records look pretty slow compared to today's records, yesterday's speed of service expectations are also lower than today's.

Canadians who send us e-mails expect responses within hours, unlike when they send a letter to us. Our processes are not oriented to that kind of response, but we do need to find ways to come closer to public expectations, without abandoning the important element of giving due consideration to whatever those responses may be.

Can public servants resolve these and the many other challenges of meeting the on-line objective? Of course we can, just as we did with the Year 2000 challenge. The base is already there, the thinking and testing is already taking place. We are working with private sector suppliers and partners who have the experience we need. Our challenge will be to engage all employees in this, especially at the most senior levels, because this is about some of the basics of what we do and how we do it, not just technical issues.

E-Government - Teamwork and leadership for results

We have already seen lots of work over the past year to put Government On-line in place and to address the issues that will lead to success. During her time as Chief Information Officer, Linda Lizotte-McPherson accomplished a great deal to sensitize the Public Service and especially its leaders to the work we had to do and the impacts we could have. Michelle d'Auray has picked up on that work. She is very engaged and her experience will serve us well. She will say more about her efforts this afternoon.

Backing them up, we have created a comprehensive governance structure through TIMS1, a committee of deputy ministers. TIMS has been led by a series of senior deputy ministers, whose support and engagement has been important (Georgina Wyman, Andy Macdonald, Peter Harder, Ian Glen, Kevin Lynch and myself). Now Alex Himelfarb is leading TIMS and ensuring that we are moving forward together toward 2004 and beyond.  The deputy ministers on TIMS are acting as a group of coaches overseeing progress on pathfinder projects that will help us test our thinking and our approaches.

That's only part of the work taking place.  Deputy ministers have also committed to horizontal initiatives based on bringing together on-line services from many departments. This will make it easier for individuals, businesses and many groups of clients to find what they are looking for.

As part of following through on this priority, most deputy ministers' performance agreements reflect Government On-Line commitments.  Departments have specific plans, focussing first on the services that matter most to Canadians.

We are also putting the tools in place, including Internet access. Canadians are getting on-line at an incredible rate - as many as seven people per second. Right now, the forecasts say that 80 percent of Canadians will be on-line by 2002. But only about 50 percent of our public servants have Internet access - that has to change, along with the tools that allow our people to take advantage of that access effectively. We'll have to ensure that all public servants have access to the same information that Canadians have.

E-Government - The great transformation

I firmly believe we can meet the commitment to provide services on-line by 2004. But that is not the same as E-Government. E-Government is a broader concept. E-Government is far more than digitizing services or putting forms, tools, databases and even transactions on-line.

E-Government means rethinking how we work and interact with citizens, given the new world of technology. It represents what could be a major transformation in what we do for citizens, how we work with citizens and how our people do their jobs. It represents a transformation in our work force, so that everyone is a knowledge worker, not just the people who fit some narrow definition. It is where we can really take a quantum leap to building a higher quality of life for all Canadians and keeping Canada on the leading edge of knowledge revolution.

As Reg Alcock, the member of parliament for Winnipeg South, has said, "Government has to innovate, not just automate." This truly captures the challenge that we face - the automation part is relatively simple, the innovation part is hard.

I could devote a whole speech to this question alone, but let me take just a few minutes to flag some of issues we face in capturing the kind of transformation that E-Government could bring about.

First, let's be clear just how sweeping this can be. We seem to be leading up to a new paradigm of governance. I really, really hate the word "paradigm". But, once in a while, even the most clichéd term is actually accurate. This is one of those times.

When Thomas Kuhn developed the concept of a paradigm shift 40 years ago, he was looking at scientific revolutions. He wasn't talking about a simple evolution in an existing way of seeing the world. He was picturing a fundamental jump from the old, accepted way of understanding things to a new, completely different way. This would be like a jump, say, from a science that figured the universe revolved around the Earth to perceiving an Earth that revolves around the Sun. That paradigm shift changed everything about how scientists and people saw the world and how they focussed their thinking.

The same kind of paradigm shift could be true for government in a world where information is more available and more shareable than ever and where citizen's expectations of access and communications are much different than they used to be.

Today, public servants are highly oriented to their branches and their departments. While there is more horizontal collaboration than ever, our paradigm is usually departmental or even program-specific. People look up and down the hierarchy first. As part of this, information and views are not easily communicated or shared across departments or across government.

That paradigm even affects our dealings with individual citizens. Our front-line services are not really oriented to a complete person. We often deal with people based only on their relationship to a department's or a program's mandate.

The experience of new technologies calls all that into question. Information is more easily shared and used; collaboration is no longer constrained by location or time. Citizens have access to more information from more sources, and they want more access to decisions. Parliamentarians already certainly see that rising demand, and so do we. And, in implementing these changes, we will have to respect parliamentarians and their roles - we cannot disintermediate elected officials.

What will all this mean? What will E-Government actually look like? How will it change how governments function? The answer is - there is no neat answer.

The story of technology over the past decade alone has taught us there is no end state and not much point obsessing over finding one. But we can aim for a kind of horizon to direct our efforts. We are something like a marathon runner without a nicely set out course. And like for any runner aiming at a horizon, some things are clear, others will only become clearer as we get closer. But the horizon will keep receding; there is no arrival.

So, what's clear? One thing is that we have to keep breaking down the barriers inside government and between governments. We have to develop flatter, more flexible structures. We have to build reward systems that foster teamwork and horizontal thinking.

Two, we have to make sure that our policy, legal and regulatory frameworks are open to whatever changes will allow us to facilitate the implementation of E-Government.

Three, we have to ensure that E-Government, including any opening of policy development processes, is truly accessible to all Canadians, not just to the digital elite. We have to be leaders in helping to ensure that all Canadians can take part in the knowledge-based economy and society, consistent with the government's Quality of Life commitments.

Four, we need to be clear that our thinking on all these and other questions will have to reflect consistency with our public service values of respect for democracy, the professionalism of our people, the ethical values of public servants and, most of all, respect for our people.

This means we should not be driven by technology, but we should use our role and capacity to help identify places where technologies would help us achieve our goals. We have to help define the kinds of solutions that we want. The fact is that we don't need the shiniest and best tools on the tech block, but we do need to focus on creating the best ways to use the tools we have.

In short, we have to decide how we want to make technology work for us so we can work for Canadians.

People are central to building E-Government

If we want Canada to be a leader, not just nationally, not just in the public sector, but a leader - full stop - we have to focus on the people who will make the transformation from the old ways to the new ones. After all, not everyone is impressed by the potential of new technologies or convinced of the need to change what we have now.

We need more assertive defenders, including people who can think through the choices and take intelligent, thoughtful action. We need people who realize that the "E" in E-Government is not simply "electronic"; it does not simply mean the tools and machines.

We need people who see that the "E" stands for "enabled" government - a truly modern institution fully capable of meeting 21st century challenges, with people who understand how technology can be used to address the quality of life challenges of the day, and people who are determined to drive the technology and the applications.

An enabled government will ensure that our people have the right skills - that they are "fonctionnaires sans frontières," as I've called them, and perhaps with different skill sets than we expect now. An enabled government will have the right tools and knowledge, and will invest continuously in those tools and knowledge. It will be alert and open to the changing needs of citizens and parliamentarians in a world where citizens can have more and richer contact with their elected representatives and their public service.

An enabled government will be flexible and responsive. Just as Bill Gates wrote about doing business at the speed of thought, we will have government at the speed of public interest. An enabled government will continue to build on the proud tradition of our public service values, and finally, it will continue to serve Canadians with professionalism and integrity.

To get there we must continue paying close attention to our people and workplace issues. We have to rethink how we manage in a public service that is more diverse and more fully representative of the Canadians it serves. That thinking will have to include a strong focus on recruitment, retention and learning in a world where knowledge and ideas increase faster than ever. We want our people to be comfortable with the technology and what it can do.

Simply put, people issues are central to E-Government, to enabled government. While we cannot predict precisely where we'll go, we know we need to go with the kinds of people who are ready to help navigate that course and the kinds of people who can make sure we choose the right course for Canada's public service - so all Canadians can benefit from the E-Government world.

Conclusion

So let me wrap up. In 2004, there will be a new round of Olympic Games, with new stars and stories. We will also see the culmination of our Government On-line initiative.

So, just as thousands of athletes are already in training to compete in Athens in four years time, we're in training to sweep the "E-Medals" that same year.

When we do, we will be well on the way to delivering the kind of E-Government that builds higher quality of life for all Canadians and keeps Canada on the leading edge of the knowledge revolution. And we will do it by drawing on the concerted effort of everyone in the Public Service, as well as the contributions of our partners in Canadian life.

I am committed to these goals. And I expect the same of leaders at all levels, in all regions and departments, who are working with other levels of government, the private and voluntary sectors to help make this happen.

That is why events like this one are too important and too eye-opening for policy, service and operations people to miss. We need everyone to see the potential of technology as a catalyst to transform how we serve Canadians - to give Canadians the information and services they need, when and where they need them. We need a public service leadership whose minds are open and enabled, too.

We are committed to helping people in the Public Service of Canada work through the challenges between now and 2004, and beyond.

Over the next few days, I know everyone here will take the opportunities afforded by this conference to learn about the emerging technologies and approaches that will help us meet our targets. And I hope you will take what you learn back to your departments and share them with your colleagues.

I'll be counting on each of you to continue pushing and innovating to get government on-line by 2004 and to open peoples minds to the new world of E-Government beyond 2004.

Thank you.

1 TIMS is the Treasury Board Secretariat's Advisory Committee Information Management Sub-committee.